Bursting The Beauty Bubble

We've gathered excerpts from Crowd DNA NYC’s recent webinar and KIN panel discussion exploring the cultural hotspots of the beauty category...

It’s been a busy couple of months for Crowd DNA webinars. We’ve covered topics ranging from hope and scenario planning, to TikTok and, in the case of our most recent event: beauty. 

The beauty category is already a hotspot for cultural change. But with the rise of challenger brands, the demand for greater diversity and an ambition to redefine what beauty even looks like, things are moving fast. To dive deeper into these themes, we combined trends and culture at scale analysis with a panel discussion made up of contributors from our KIN network (shout outs and thanks to: Louisa Kinoshi, Niki Igbaroola and Cassandra Harner). 

Download the report below for highlights from our conversations covering four key topics:

1. The Current Culture Of Beauty

2. Cultural Appropriation

3. Cancel Culture

4. Cultural Representation

Bursting The Beauty Bubble: Excerpts from our recent webinar

Thanks to all that joined us. Please get in touch with any questions, or if you would like to hear more about our thinking surrounding the beauty category. And watch this space for more Crowd DNA webinars coming soon.

Bursting The Beauty Bubble: Excerpts from our recent webinar

In the run up to the US Election, Crowd DNA New York will track the conversation online, turning emergent trends into valuable learnings. First up in the Click State series, a fresh look at localization...

Elections have been playing out digitally for years, but 2020’s presidential race – with its virtual conventions, TikTok meddling, basement broadcasts, corporate activism and Twitter declarations – is like no other. As we hit the final stretch, Crowd DNA New York’s Click State series will track the conversation online, using our Culture At Scale social media data method to identify emergent trends.

Our first post is below. By analyzing conversations coming out of swing states, we can see how a polarizing election is fast accelerating the shift from a collective American identity to a more local one.


Challenging the idea of a blanket ‘American identity’

In a year where governor mandates took precedence over presidential guidance on the pandemic, we’ve seen an accelerated shift from nationalism to a locally focused mindset. The events of 2020 have fuelled a drive away from a collective American character. Now, pride and trust in states and counties, even individual cities, resonates more strongly with American’s sense of self than the country as a whole. This, crossed with the nation’s individualistic nature, has been challenging the idea of a blanket ‘American identity.’

Then came the election. With polls neck and neck, especially in swing states, causes that hold local significance have come to the fore. We’re witnessing demand for attention to local issues and representatives who support each state’s unique needs. Candidates always pander to swing states, but this year, with a reinvigorated sense of local self, these states are armed with demands for their locales. By analyzing online conversations in three swing states, we can see how disparate voices are replacing one American narrative. Listening (socially) to these divided voices helps us learn how to speak to a fragmented, local leaning country.

Wisconsin:

With Covid-19 already making voting in the US precarious, Wisconsin reduced polling stations from 182 to five, disproportionately impacting low-income Black and brown communities. After months of Black Lives Matter protests and strong demonstrations in Kenosha, Wisconsinites feel empowered, rallying behind these communities. Rather than sitting out the election, they’re activating and driving change online, teaching us the value demonstrations can have on a location’s spirit.

Florida:

Climate change is a very real threat in states like Florida, which have been ripped apart by coastal flooding. Cross this with Gen Z, a generation of first time voters who have continually ranked climate change as a top issue. As climate change continues to harm Florida, the state’s voters seek candidates who prioritize the cause. Using social, Florida politicians rally the state by speaking to local climate initiatives. By referencing impacted locations and drawing from local experiences, politicians can relate to voters as fellow Floridians.

Arizona:

If Arizona’s votes go to Biden, as polling suggests, it would be the first time the state favored a Democrat in 24 years. This shift is thanks to the state’s growing Latinx population. And as more US-born Latinx Arizonans turn voting age, they will add up to a significant voting bloc. Social outcries appeal directly to these voters through the use of language and cultural references. In speaking to Latinx Americans, authentically addressing the cultural nuances in their culture is crucial.

Looking at these states, and understanding their fragmented identities, presents implications for speaking to American consumers. Messaging will feel more relatable if brands consider local identities first.

The sentiment ‘we’re all in this together’ is tone deaf to America’s transitioning sense of self. Americans don’t feel a sense of camaraderie with states whose needs differ from their own. They want brands to speak to an identity that exists beyond the singular American character.


Source: Brandwatch, tracking data from Jul 1, 2020-Sept 28, 2020

Wisconsin: Jul 1, 2020-Sept 28, 2020, Wisconsin, United States: ((election OR election2020 OR “election 2020” OR presidentialelection OR “presidential election” OR 2020election OR “2020 election”) AND (votersuppression OR “voter suppression”) AND (wisconsin))

Florida: Jul 1, 2020-Sept 28, 2020, Florida, United States: ((election OR election2020 OR “election 2020” OR presidentialelection OR “presidential election” OR 2020election OR “2020 election”) AND (“climate change” OR climatechange) AND (florida))

Arizona: Jul 1, 2020-Sept 28, 2020, Arizona, United States: ((election OR election2020 OR “election 2020” OR presidentialelection OR “presidential election” OR 2020election OR “2020 election”) AND (latin*) AND (arizona))

How To Speak TikTok

July 22 - more webinar action from Crowd DNA. This time, we're digging into the TikTok phenomenon, including the opportunities offered to brands...


  • Session 1: July 22, 08.30 (BST)/17.30 (AEST) – sign up here
  • Session 2: July 22, 16.00 (BST)/11.00 (EDT) – sign up here

(Access via Zoom; 45 mins including Q&A)


TikTok seemingly came out of nowhere in the West in 2018. Despite many dismissing it as unlikely to gain traction, an ever-growing audience have soundly disagreed, with the platform spawning an infinite array of trends and cultural crossovers – while rocketing to a reported 800 million monthly active users.

It’s now impossible for brands to ignore TikTok and its dancing, singing, laughing legions of users – and TikTok is actively courting brands, too (with Chipotle, NBA, Washington Post and Crocs among the many to jump on board).

In these two sessions, led by Crowd DNA senior consultant Chris Illsley, we’ll be exploring all you need to know about TikTok – from its origins in China, to how it carved out a space for itself in the West; why it has gained so much traction during Covid-19 and, importantly, how brands can successfully leverage TikTok for marketing strategy.

To help brands ‘TikTok’ to the best of their abilities, we’ll consider:

– Where has TikTok come from and what is really driving its popularity?

– How does the platform actually work and what makes it different from other social media competitors?

– What are the TikTok rules of engagement for brands?

– What should great branded TikTok content look like?

Late breaking news: If turning up wasn’t essential enough already, we’re excited to confirm that Sherice Banton will be with us to discuss life on the platform and where things go from here.

Sherice has over 1.6m followers (and counting) and is considered one of the most popular TikTok creators in the UK. She’s also worked with brands such as Adobe, Warner Brothers and Burger King.

We hope you can make it. Bring your best dance moves.


  • Session 1: July 22, 08.30 (BST)/17.30 (AEST) – sign up here
  • Session 2: July 22, 16.00 (BST)/11.00 (EDT) – sign up here

(Access via Zoom; 45 mins including Q&A)

Remote Film Formats

Six approaches for leveraging the best from UGC video content...

Working with user generated content has always been prominent among the method mix at Crowd DNA. Recent times, inevitably, have seen even more focus on remote film techniques, making sure we adapt and innovate to meet client objectives.

Here’s a run-through of six remote film methods that have been getting us up-close (from a distance) to needs and tensions recently, helping stakeholders to empathise with people and culture.

(With thanks to some of the Crowd team for featuring in these mockups!)

In-Home Futures

We used the future of the home as a case study in our recent scenario planning webinar. It's a fascinating topic - here's a deeper dive on the scenarios we developed...

Our recent webinar on culturally charged scenario planning saw us explaining and exploring how we use this technique to reach powerful outcomes for our clients – around objectives such as product and experience development, brand positioning, comms activation, new market entries, investments and partnerships strategy.

We used the future of the home as a case study. Why? For good reason as, post-pandemic, we can expect a long term shift in the in-home experience. Either because we’re still scared. Or we’ve decided to move to the suburbs. Or, as a society, we’ve realised the social inequality of renting. Or we’ve just decided to carry on making the most of in-home entertainment and exercise rituals that we formed in lockdown.

These potential transformations will have implications for all categories that are consumed, and occasions that take place, at home: finance, food, drink, sleep, beauty, entertainment, retail, fitness and more. But how to make sense of these numerous and diverse shifts? 

Critical uncertainties

As part of our culturally charged scenario planning workstream, after sifting through hundreds of future signs, we narrowed down to two critical uncertainties pertinent to the in-home environment in the next three-to-five years (with some initial manifestations of change likely to surface earlier still):

When it comes to the future role of the home, will people prioritise:

1. freedom, creativity and release – or look for reassurance, stability and protection?

2. championing the personal and individual – or embracing collectivism and belonging?

Above is how the critical uncertainties look in a typical scenario planning chart, with each of the four scenarios we consequently shaped up named per quadrant. 

Next, we fleshed out these four scenarios. The results are both inspiring and slightly terrifying. Here goes…


COMMUNITY REBELLION

Radical reinvention of public & private

In this scenario, we move from home ownership to community membership – subscribing to an area or suburb rather than a physical building. We no longer think of homes as assets or investments, and instead ownership becomes a right. After the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020, community support services are given more funding over the police force. City streets are pedestrianised and car parks are redesigned as community and resource distribution spaces. Smart homes use technology to ensure environmental efficiency – rather than productivity. 


CLOSED COMMUNITIES

Protecting my tribe and local area only

In this scenario, neighbourhoods have become city states in their own right. To prevent further pandemics, national-level visa systems and processes are replaced by hyper local policies and requirements if you wish to move between individual communities. We have adopted bartering systems in place of shopping for big and global brands. Homes are a space for us to work on our craft and grow or create items to trade. Community isolation calls drive value and uptake of heightened home privacy and security systems. Architecture will also follow more community-minded values, creating safe spaces for neighbours to meet in, while keeping the rest of the city at a distance.


HOME BUNKER

Distance as a design paradigm

In this scenario, hyper hygienic tech solutions are as common in the house as ovens and microwaves. We’re minimising the use of the tactile – touch screens become obsolete in favour of voice and face controls. Delineated entry points for the home, as per Japanese genkans, to maximise cleanliness, become standard features. Antibacterial surface materials, such as cork and copper, are utilised throughout the home, and sanitising vapours are misted into the air at regular intervals via a smart timer to improve the cleanliness of indoor air.


NEW (IN-HOME) HEDONISM 

Maximalist aesthetics and in-home indulgences

In this scenario, we have abandoned minimalist design aesthetics and returned to ‘more is more’ maximalism. Importance is placed on sensory delight, where we choose furniture, devices and decorations that provide us with major stimulation. AI facilitates cognitive engagement, enabling us to play, explore, discover, experiment and learn through new experiences like holograms and VR gaming. Tech and furniture collide to amp up this sense of high stimulation. The hospitality industry continues to build in-home products and services to meet with the heightened appetite for indoor creativity, play and hedonistic fun.


Scenarios such as these can be used as creative springboards for new product and brand innovation, as a starting point for your next campaign, or to simply decide what you’re going to stop doing to avoid becoming obsolete. It’s unlikely that all four potential futures apply to you and your brand, but using this technique is about prioritising – which scenarios provide the most opportunities or threats, and what are you going to do about it?

We work scenarios into project stimulus and to identify workshop opportunity areas. We use them to write new brand narratives, to run ideation sessions and help our clients develop fresh concepts.

If you want to know more about the future of the home or how to work with scenario planning for your category or brand, do get in touch.

(Illustrations by Chloe Swayne from Crowd DNA’s Socialise team)

Future-Proofing Quant

Our Crowd Numbers team are on a mission to revamp quantitative research. Download this PDF report to find out where they think things are heading...

Following their breakfast event way back pre-pandemic, our Crowd Numbers team have been building further on ideas for how to future-proof quantitative research; and to ensure it sits as a vital element in our method toolbox.

In this report, they’ve broken this down into three areas:

1. Transcending Demographics

2. Bringing In Culture

3. Telling Real Stories

Check out the full report to find out more: Crowd DNA, More Than A Number, June 2020

From celebrating Black voices to understanding regional conversation, this special installment of Crowd Tracks explores conversations of the Black Lives Matter movement...

Download the full copy of Black Lives Matter: Behind The Hashtag here.

Crowd Tracks is our social data dispatch, highlighting emerging trends using our Culture At Scale method. As people in all 50 US states, and around the globe, march together, demanding equality for Black people, this special issue spotlights conversation around the Black Lives Matter movement.

The full report features:

– BLM growth – mapping the trajectory of conversation around Black Lives Matter

– Viral stories from across the US organizing protests, battling voter suppression, holding brands accountable

– Buying Black – uncovering how through the exposure of the racially unequal practices of big brands, emerges a celebration of Black businesses

– The role of brands – examining how brands are participating in discussion and what effective brand allyship looks like

– Amplifying Black voices – exploring how the internet is celebrating and making space for Black voices

– Deep dives delving into how the movement is reviving community and shifting from cancel culture to accountability

Download the full copy of Black Lives Matter: Behind The Hashtag here.

Listening to and amplifying the voices of the Black Lives Matter movement
Listening to and amplifying the voices of the Black Lives Matter movement

Culture At Scale at Crowd DNA At Crowd DNA, we’re constantly tracking conversations online across a range of categories. We deploy social media and other unstructured data sources in a number of ways; either as a stand-alone method (including producing one-off and periodical reports for our clients) or integrated alongside semiotic, ethnographic and quantitative approaches. If you’d like to find out more about how we can use Culture At Scale to meet your business challenges, get in touch.

July 1 webinar: our Crowd Signs team explore what hope looks like in pandemic times - and how brands can point to more hopeful futures...


  • Session 1: July 1, 08.30 (BST)/17.30 (AEST)

Hosted by Crowd DNA London & Sydney | Presenters: Rachel Rapp (associate director, London), Dr Bridget Dalton (senior consultant, London), Erryn Balzan (associate director, Sydney)

Sign up here

  • Session 2: July 1, 16.00 (BST)/11.00 (EDT)

Hosted by Crowd DNA London & New York | Presenters: Rachel Rapp (associate director, London), Dr Bridget Dalton (senior consultant, London), Eden Lauffer (senior consultant, New York)

Sign up here

(Access via Zoom; 45 mins including Q&A)


Life BC (Before Covid) seems a million years ago, and people are adjusting, adapting and holding on tight. Through it all, despite the tragedy, hope springs eternal – but, beyond the rainbows in windows and garden laps for the NHS, what form does that hope take?

Join us as, focusing on five key shifts, we track the trajectory of hope using trends analysis and semiotics – some of the methods in our Crowd Signs toolkit. We’ll discuss the historical divisions of hope, how the pandemic-induced spirit of community is challenging polarisation, and whether hope has morphed from a universal quality to cultural value.

To help brands turn hope into action, we will consider: 

– What hopeful behaviours and terms are signalling new consumer trends?

– What are the semiotic cultural cues translating hope linguistically, visually, and more?

– How can brands speak to and activate against these swiftly changing codes?

– What can we learn from the brands who are speaking hope well already?


Session 1: July 1, 08.30 (BST)/17.30 (AEST) – Sign up here

Session 2: July 1, 16.00 (BST)/11.00 (EDT) – Sign up here

You can learn more about Crowd Signs (combining trends, semiotics, culture at scale and our KIN network) via this vid: