Our innovation knowledge leader, Aurelie Jamard, reports that Gens Y and Z haven't lost their enthusiasm for cars. They're just hungry to see a greater push for innovation and for understanding how needs are changing. Green light, let's go...

In a recent report published by Ford, the brand decided to focus their research on Gen Z (young people born after 1993, according to Ford’s definition). Interesting stuff, but while it’s important to understand the digital lifestyle and aspirations of the youngest among us, the broader Millennials set shouldn’t be left out of the equation as they’ve pioneered the changes and trends that now increasingly characterise their Gen Z peers in Western economies. Most Millennials, when hit by the recession, started to review luxury codes and perceptions of status, but also blur the boundaries between owning and renting or sharing.

However, an important factor is that this generation still seems open to the idea of owning cars. Will it be the same for Gen Z as they reach the legal driving age? Gen Z are the true digital natives – they were born with smartphones in their hands; they know how to navigate the web and use it to their advantage. They’re socially active, defend the environment and their community, and they are at the heart of the sharing economy (think AirBnB, Uber, SupperKing, etc). Looking ahead to 2015 and beyond, many of the key trends listed below were conceived and shaped by Millennials, but it’s Gen Z that will really drive them forwards.


Beer Innovations In 2014

From new digital platforms to an ale that apparently helps you get fit, Crowd DNA's knowledge leader in innovation, Aurelie Jamard, cracks open a selection of new ideas in beer from 2014...

Yes, we’ve decided to talk about beer at a time when Coke is tentatively trying to launch lactose-free milk (not without a few hurdles…), and when everyone’s stocking up on mulled wine and bubbly for the festive season. But we’ve seen some interesting moves in the category this year and we’d like to review some trends that are influencing innovations and will undoubtedly keep doing so in 2015.

2014 was the year that really highlighted the decline of Millennials’ interest in beer to the advantage of wine and spirits (and, worse, healthy drinks!). This generation of consumers, better educated and more socially active than ever, turned to more sophisticated drinks but also demanded more transparency and authenticity from brands in the category. The trends and innovations below attempt to sum up some of the most significant changes that happened to the industry in the past months.

Crafty, authentic, local

Craft beers have of course been the massive hit of 2014. Consumers in search of authenticity, quality and locality have united to support small breweries and discover new draughts. Most recently, Diageo launched two new craft versions of its Guinness beer, and the BeerBods platform went live after reaching its Crowdcube goal of £155,000 in 36 hours. The aim of the platform? To enable its members to discover different craft beers at their leisure, for a quarterly fee of £36.

Women drinkers as the new target

2014 has been a year of strong female centric campaigns, such as Always’ #LikeAGirl and the UN’s Emma Watson-supported HeForShe initiative. And the link with beer? 2014 has seen SAB Miller pledge to change the image of beer by launching products designed to appeal to female drinkers. The popularity of new beer products across the category, such as Radlers and fruit ciders, is another manifestation of this trend and has helped foster a move towards less male dominated innovations.

New luxury for Millennials

In one of our Crowd DNA events this year we talked about new interpretations of luxury among youth. It’s a revised definition that spans across categories and has raised challenges in some quarters. But it’s definitely had an impact on the beer industry in 2014. Initiatives like House Of Peroni have contributed to raising the profile of the Italian premium beer among affluent, young UK consumers. Another interesting move came from MillerCoors: the company created a new beer with stronger alcohol content called Miller Fortune, designed to attract Millennials whose preference has been for spirits lately. With its biggest launch in six years, the brand also contributed to fuelling the new, fast growing and high margin “above premium” beer category.

So despite a growing trend for the consumption of healthy products, the beer industry is starting to adapt, which promises an exciting year of innovations ahead. But the focus on healthy drinks isn’t something that the category has to miss out on altogether. Canadian company VAMPT Brands recently launched its Lean Machine Ale – packed with antioxidants and electrolytes, making it the first fitness-enhancing beer, it’s ideal for bodies in recovery mode after a session at the gym.

And the other way round works, too. It looks like soft drinks are following in the footsteps of the beer industry, with Pepsi launching its ‘craft soda’ called Caleb’s Kola in some test states in the US. So what kind of innovations can we expect in the beer industry in 2015? Drop me a line if you want to find out more. Over a beer or otherwise, we’d love to discuss these with you.

Award Number Three For 2014

We started the year winning the Storytelling prize at the Marketing Week Data Strategy Awards. Then came the FIPP Gold Award for our Connected Consumers work for Time Inc. And, pleased to say, we've ended the year by winning the MRS Cultural Insights Award...

We picked up the Virginia Valentine Award For Cultural Insights, to give it its full title, in partnership with University Of Nottingham’s Students Union for our work re-imagining the iconic Portland Building. This saw us combining our ‘Crowd Out’ innovation approach with detailed cultural analysis, exploring what a campus space needs to offer for a next generation of students. Big well dones to all involved and thanks to University Of Nottingham’s Students Union for picking us for the project in the first place. Oh, and that’s the comedian Milton Jones on the left in the pic, by the way.

On The Path To Purchase

Crowd DNA strategic initiatives director Sarah Brierley explains how, through exploring stories, behaviour and culture, we bring shape and order to the otherwise chaotic business of understanding the purchase journey…

At Crowd DNA we’re increasingly asked by clients how they can best understand the paths to purchase their various consumers take. It’s easy to see why: what with showrooming, webrooming and now even ‘boomerooming’ creating new blends of online and offline behaviours, the significance of consumers’ post-purchase brand relationship, and the ever-increasing expectation for personalisation, it’s increasingly difficult for brands to understand how to deliver the right message at the right touchpoint.

What’s more, there’s a multitude of variables at play. Different consumers exhibit different purchase patterns – so frequent purchasers often make faster, more unconscious decisions than infrequent purchasers, and influencers can seek out more touchpoints than non-influencers. We see different behaviours by category too – so an emotional, brand-driven purchase in fashion looks very different from a rational, deliberated purchase in financial services. And the journey looks different if the purchase is considered, or habitual, or impulse, or ‘for me’, or ‘for someone else’, and so it goes on…

With all of this complexity, where do you begin? We pooled our experience and thinking with esteemed neighbours and partners BD Network: enter our combined Path To Purchase Framework.

We think of the path to purchase as a continuing narrative: a story told by brands, followed by consumers. To deliver powerful consumer stories across the path to purchase we need insight into how brands can have most impact at each stage. And of course, the path is not linear – post-purchase, consumers simply loop back to the beginning of the journey.

So in a path to purchase project, we examine lots of consumer journeys through the lens of a simple model, and for each stop on the path, we identify the significant touchpoints and influences.

But we don’t stop there. For the truest read on the path to purchase, we also need to look to the behavioural and cultural factors. At every stage of a purchase journey, decisions can be conscious or unconscious – only by selecting the right research methods and pinpointing the likely cognitive biases at play can we capture the nuances this presents. And no purchase decision is made in isolation of the culture in which the consumer is immersed – so we explore the cultural orthodoxy of the category and identify cultural trends that may be influencing behaviour.

Only after we’ve looked at all of these points do we believe we have what’s required to paint a realistic picture of path to purchase, and to deliver the most powerful consumer stories. From there, we piece the components together in an intensive analysis phase, culminating in deliverables that shine a bright light on the purchase journey and ensure commercial impact for the client. All in all, a culturally-informed slice of understanding with the consumer at its heart.

To learn more, take a look at our one pager on the subject: PDF one-pager or get in touch

Culture Club

Hot on the heels of our Youth Club event, last night we staged Culture Club - a session with Tea Building buddies BD Network, plus guest speakers Lisa Moretti from Seven and psychologist Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos, in which we explored how brands face up to the challenge of becoming more culturally relevant. Here's some pics...

Stayed tuned for news of more Culture Club and Youth Club events in 2015.

Re-Booting TV For Youth

How does TV adapt to fit the expectations and needs of modern youth? Crowd DNA insight and innovation exec, Cathy Pearson, went in search of answers at Channel 4's Youth Audience event...

It’s no secret that 16-34s have always watched less TV than their elders. More than ever, they’re busy adapting to life’s transitions and adopting viewing habits to suit their lifestyles. This is why Leonie Hodge, head of audience research and insight at Channel 4, and speaking at the channel’s Youth Audiences event, believes reflecting young people’s influences, aspirations and experiences is a big part of getting programming right. Young people are aware of social issues, they want to discover new things and they’re willing to challenge their own preconceptions, so TV’s ability to influence is huge — but only if broadcasters get it right.

Driving the best TV experience for young people is increasingly about tapping into social and cultural trends, and employing these across new content as well as the genres they love. This means socially purposeful and authentic content with a commercial reach. Topical themes encourage wider conversation and have social cache among young people, but can also deepen their relationship with a particular show or channel in a crowded television landscape. The shows with heritage are those that allow them to resonate with a character, narrative or issue, and gain commitment from young audiences as they continue to use them as social markers.

Young people are looking to programmes first before heading to the channel with that content and if the audience are moving quickly, channel brands need to follow. Technology has been the biggest driver of growth in TV viewing among 16-24s with an increasing number of platforms and destinations for them to seek out TV content. Their digital engagement increases the TV viewing time of young people by an extra half an hour each day on both VOD and DVD, and the success of early digital initiatives that make content widely available speak largely about audience loyalty to seek out content above and beyond TV, according to Victoria Lucas, Channel 4’s series content producer on Hollyoaks.

TV’s once simpler role to entertain a passive audience has been thrown out. 16-34s are active in following their favourite shows and ditching those that don’t cut it. Channels must do more to reach them and reposition their programmes to become the content of choice. The biggest challenges are around producing and distributing content that connects — TV must not just entertain but capture the stories and issues that matter, and tell them from a young perspective. Harnessing this will require broadcasters and creative heads to remain much closer to their young audiences.


Big + Beautiful Data

Here's a data oriented double act, with associate director Claire Moon on author/broadcaster Tim Harford's Google Firestarters presentation, and Eric Shapiro, our creative delivery knowledge leader, reviewing David McCandless' talk at a Guardian Live event. Let's go...

In the first of our two reports, author, broadcaster and FT columnist Tim Harford gave two TED-style talks – one titled ‘Big Mistakes With Big Data’ and the second on ‘How To Tell The Future’. Here’s four relevant insights from his presentations.

  1. Data can’t always speak for itself

At first glance, big data promises to render traditional methods of sampling obsolete (because we now have the data for ‘n=all’), and does away with the need for theories and hypotheses because we can simply ‘listen’ to the data by running algorithms to analyse it.

However, the rise and fall of Google Flu Trends – the poster child for big data – highlights the importance of ‘old-fashioned, boring lessons around how we behave with data’ and the enduring importance of human intelligence at all stages of analysis.

Despite working well at the start, the success rate of the predictions made by Google Flu Trends began to fall spectacularly – and because Google didn’t have a theory for why it worked in the first place, it was impossible to work out why it had gone wrong.

  1. The importance of being human

Despite calling himself a huge fan of big data, Tim advocated human intuition over computer learning and algorithms, and explained why speaking to ‘n=all that matter’ is still a far better approach than attempting to listen to ‘n=all’.

As the volume of ‘found data’ increases, big data is becoming increasingly good at telling us what is happening and identifying correlations, but it can’t tell you why it’s happening and if a correlation actually represents causation – you still need to speak to real humans for that!

  1. Be self-critical

Tim’s final lesson was around prediction, and the importance of being open minded. He spoke at length about a research programme set up by psychologist Philip Tetlock that aggregated a large number (20,000) of quantifiable forecasts made by a broad variety of people. Through this experiment, Tetlock found that the success of predictions lie in correcting biases, working in teams, and in practicing ‘actively open-minded thinking’.

In short, the best way to ensure accuracy when carrying out research and looking to the future is to continually challenge what you find and be prepared to change your mind when new information arises.

  1. Research isn’t always about finding answers

During the Q&A session after Tim’s talks, he was asked about his work for the Scenario Planning division at Shell. Tim’s description of it as ‘science fiction’ got a few laughs, but his point was a serious one – research shouldn’t always be about finding answers. Instead, research should be about stimulating thinking.

(If you want a more detailed account of the event and Tim’s talks, check out Neil Perkin’s great write-up here)


In the second of our reports, we heard Mr Information Is Beautiful (more commonly known as David McCandless) discuss his new book Knowledge Is Beautiful, where he spoke not only of the art of data visualisation, but more deeply on the dividing line between ‘data’ and ‘knowledge’.

Psychology tells us seven pieces of knowledge is about the most information a person can hold, so here’s three things to remember from David’s speech to add to the four from Tim’s.

Knowledge is joined up data

Bored with drawing up immaculate and fascinating data representations, McCandless sought to understand and illustrate knowledge in his new book. He came to the realisation that single data sets only tell you so much. If you want to find something new and genuinely interesting, you need to join up different banks of data to paint a clearer representation. For example, if you want to know who’s top dog, you need to look at a huge range of factors, including vet records, dog genealogies and popularity to reach your goal. It’s the same with insights. To find something new, you need to join up different data types and studies, and view them as one.

3/4 of our brain is vision

Astonishingly, three quarters of our neurons are dedicated to the visual system. We’re incredibly sensitive to beautiful things, but we’re equally aware of ugly things. Even more fascinatingly, we have trust in the former, and are suspicious of the latter. It’s why we describe companies with older or more simple websites as ‘dodgy’, and equally why we forgive glamorous celebrities for just about anything (nice corn rows, Justin…). This means no matter how great, relevant, or life changing a piece of knowledge is, we won’t trust it unless it’s packaged in something beautiful that earns our trust. Equally, we need to be conscious of not presenting something incorrect beautifully, encouraging the wrong sort of knowledge – which means data integrity still matters.

Up wide, crash zoom, to the side

Finally, we learned how in order to extract the best information from data, you need to examine it from all angles. That means looking at the whole picture, exploring the tiny details within, and changing the angle of approach. Take the world of cash crops. From afar, wheat is the most planted, sugar cane the most fecund and most popular, and cannabis yields the highest revenue. That last one’s interesting, no? Well, if we zoom in, you can see that cannabis generates £47,660,000 per square kilometer. And if we look at it from another angle, we see in a state where cannabis is now legal, Colorado, that it reels in more tax revenue than Alcohol. The insight? Cannabis is more lucrative than you might have thought.

Rather than point you towards the illegal drug trade, we reckon this is a lesson in analysis: specifically the importance of using frameworks to view data through different lenses and extract the best and most interesting bits.

(You can see more of David’s beautiful works here, and he’d probably want this blog to link to the Amazon page for his new book – we’ll acquiesce and do this here.)

Crowd DNA’s trends knowledge leader, Rebecca Coleman, explores the value created by brands through looking beyond the day to day and connecting with the cultural shifts that consumers really care about…

What’s your brand’s purpose? Great brands have a point of view and mission that stretches beyond the confines of their primary function. Think Coca-Cola and their mission to spread happiness or Dove’s Real Beauty campaign. Google, with its commitment to helping start ups is another great example of a brand with a purpose that stretches further than its primary function or promise. What cultural shifts are happening right now that consumers really care about? What value are you adding to people’s lives?

If a brand has a purpose that stretches beyond its category and functionality, it’s much easier to tap into trends and keep up with consumers as their lifestyles evolve. Take P&G brand Always as an example: it has consistently looked to offer effective feminine hygiene products, but more importantly it has stayed true to its mission of instilling girls with confidence through education at every lifestage.

Knowing its audience and purpose has made it straightforward for Always to align itself with contemporary feminist culture. Although this is a macro trend affecting wide swathes of society, Always has made all its #LikeaGirl communications feel personal by harnessing a universal sentiment. They’ve also accompanied the campaign with meaningful and impactful initiatives that stretch from one-on-one advice for young girls to partnering with UNESCO to promote gender equality across the globe. Showing this depth of commitment enhances feelings of trust and the sense that Always really believes in its long-term mission to boost female confidence.

This fusion of individual and collective value is increasingly pertinent in today’s world of corporate social responsibility over-saturation. CSR on its own has become pretty meaningless to well-informed, media-savvy consumers who – dissatisfied with pure lip service – demand to know how and why a brand is making a difference to their world. In a 2014 survey of 8,000 consumers in 16 markets PR agency Edelman found that consumers see customer relationship management as more important than CSR. Another study from the World Federation Of Advertisers (WFA) uncovered a swing from environmentalism and global issues to supporting communities and ethical business practices as important brand purposes. This indicates a shift from concerns about big, global issues to a focus on tangible everyday topics that pack a more personal punch.

This seems obvious in some ways. It reflects a number of wider consumer trends, such as a growing lack of trust in large corporations and traditional authority figures, as well as an increasing expectation to be part of a brand’s story through conversation, co-creation and collaboration. On top of that you have new definitions of value driven by the sharing economy and the recession. This means that purchases now need to count for more than simply their functional worth. Consumers are looking for brands that look after their needs and desires, as well as those of the world.

Whatever your category, it’s important not to get trapped in a revolving door of convention. For FMCG brands like Always, there’ll always be someone who offers a similar product for a cheaper price. However, by aligning itself with a larger cultural movement it manages to stand-out in a crowded marketplace.