Semiotics At Crowd: Feeld

We know today’s daters are tired of the ‘self-imposed pressure for conventional labels’ (Tinder, 2023) and many seek the freedom to define their own relationships. They are wanting an invitation to self exploration and freedom to seek out a bit more of what they fancy.

And this more intentional approach to romantic life is reshaping dating culture – and of course, dating apps. It can even be a direct antidote to the downsides of dating app culture (ie the 35 percent who experience unwanted sexual images, or the 80 percent exposed to emotional burnout, Pew 2020; Singles Report 2023). 

While it’s something that Tinder and Hinge have recognised by adding open relationships to profile options, dating app Feeld is leading the way (not least by referring to daters as ‘humans’). Below is our semiotic analysis of the Feeld brand to show what this reshaped dating culture looks and sounds like…

Heightened Intimacy 

Visuals of gentle skin-to-skin embrace suggests touch is used as a means of intimate discovery, and a level of trust and support. Warm colour palettes and references to physical softness (foliage and nature, hazy images) creates an approachable space. Meanwhile, imagery of people smiling and mutually embracing each other evokes a feeling of closeness and deep connection. By coding Feeld as facilitating intimate depth that goes beyond carnal lust, dating culture can explore the possibilities of more meaningful relationships.

Authentic Connections

Introducing a new wave of daters who are ‘experimental’, Feeld signals a dating culture that’s abandoning tradition. While other mainstream apps use the term ‘preferences’, that can often make dating feel like you’re headhunting a mate, Feeld instead uses the term ‘desires’ . This reestablishes the priority of pleasure and joy in dating. We’re also seeing unposed visuals of diverse couples passionately and full heartedly engaging with each other in private spaces, as well as documentation of personal stories, evoking a feeling of trust and honesty not only between connections, but among a like minded community. In all, Feeld is a safe place to explore an inclusive and authentic approach to dating.

Encouraged Exploration

The app positions itself as always in a “dialogue” with its users. It uses open language with a comforting tone of voice when addressing ‘taboo topics’, similar to a teacher-like quality of benevolent guidance, enlightening daters about the spectrum of intimacy. We also see visuals that evoke a feeling of being welcomed –  boards that encourage users to “come on in” resemble signage we’d see outside of spaces of hospitality, ensuring that there’s a place at the table for everyone to explore and to truly “Find Your People”.

Through very careful and thoughtful use of imagery and words, Feeld reveals a whole-hearted commitment to showing how using dating apps can be a safe, inclusive and most importantly, joyful, experience. In this light, it’s doing even more than reshaping dating culture, it’s showing how we can reshape how we connect as humans.

If you’d like to learn more about how we use semiotics to reach real cultural insights, get in touch at:

What’s all this then? People, we don’t have to take a clean, pristine and pure approach to life — dirt, grime, mess, and mud are being accepted as a new (likely to be rusty) gold standard.

Phew! No more wipeable sofa cushions! So where are messy aesthetics being celebrated? They’ve moved on from just a social media-fueled shock tactic as people have grown desensitised to yuckiness. Now mess and dirt are making an impact by appearing in everyday, big ticket pleasures. 

Tell me more… There’s a lot of mud being thrown in high fashion — think Elena Velez models and mud wrestles on the runway, or Kylie Jenner’s recent Acne Studios campaign clothed in thousand dollar garments and splatters of mud. We’ve also seen the return of the moto and rain boot, and also niche creations like Crocs’ new Shrek-themed shoes (“get out of my swamp!”-core).

How else is messy realities making an impact? Meanwhile, on social media you’ve probably noticed the dirty/messy trend. Think: glass tubs filled with paint being rolled down stairs for ASMR videos, or wine bottles being thrown into walls. And if you can bear to watch it, there’s the ‘is it cake’ trend’s viral older sister — the zit popping cake and the bloody cake smash trend.

Ok, give me the dirt on dirt – what’s really going on here? It’s way more than just surface level spillage. It’s a manifestation of our collective desire to embrace imperfections and chaos in an overly curated world. It’s how Kylie appears with a dirty double of herself in the Acne Studios advert, signalling that this aesthetic is an acknowledgement that we all – yes, even the supremely manufactured Kardashians – have a good and messy side…

So no more clean fun? The world is literally boiling and the clean movement just didn’t seem to capture the overall dirtiness of how people have been feeling. We’re living with dirty realities all around us, and there’s a collective sigh of relief in being honest about it.

TL;DR: As the earth boils and the ground muddifies, everyone and everything is welcome in this swamp! 

Colour Me

At Crowd, we use semiotics as one of our tools, showing where signs and symbols – like words, visual icons, packaging, or logos – are a shortcut for brands to reveal their message or impact behaviour. 

Colour of course carries plenty of meaning, but that changes (and often very fast) alongside lived experiences. In this new series, we take a look at the semiotics of colour, and where culture is flipping its use on its head. 

First up, what lies beneath the sunny, happy-go-lucky exterior of Gen Z yellow? We use semiotics to chart the evolution of a colour ascribed to Gen Z – a yellow that suits the brash, outspoken kids on the block – and how it mirrors what has mattered to this group during the last five years…

In Gen Z yellow, we explore: 

_How a generation refusing to be ignored and feeling an urgency tinged with optimism (eg climate activism) took ownership of a yellow tone that was just as loud and unmuted as them.

_How this colour mellowed after the pandemic to a gentle, sunny yellow as Gen Z shifted to  groundedness and simplicity?

_ Now a shade of yellow is emerging that reflects how Gen Z are reacting to the so-called global ‘permacrisis’ – one that has tranquil hues to tap into their seeking solace in spirituality and escapism. 

_And finally: we show how to leverage Gen Z yellow to your advantage.

Read the full report here.

Semiotic analysis can help brands understand culture and keep ahead of cultural change, and we hope our Colour Me series will help you in  choosing more impactful colours.

If you’d like to learn more about how we use semiotics to reach real cultural insights, please get in touch:

Download Crowd Signals: Sports Fandom & Activewear here

We’ve used our Crowd Signals Platform to track real-time signals within sports conversations around fandom and activewear, and this report is what we found to be uppermost in the minds and behaviour of people who are engaging in sports right now. 

The Crowd Signals Platform has advanced NLP, AI and machine learning capabilities (powered by to search social posts, forums, search engines, review sites, client sales and behavioural sets – and ultimately uncover meaningful stories of culture.

Read previous Crowd Signals: Psychedelic Heath here and Crowd Signals: Wellbeing Recharge here.

For this latest report, we looked at the data within the culture shifts of Finding Your Fandom and Fluid Expression – two of the nine macro subjects we track in real-time on the Crowd Signals Platform – and how the trends in these cultures linked to fan identity and activewear.

The big issues that are writ large are conversations about activism and women in sport, and how well-being and performance can work together.

The full report features what the 2023 data can reveal about: 

_ Playful dressing of sports brands, and the pairing of wellbeing and activewear

_ Activewear trends on TikTok 

_Female fandom’s impact on inclusivity and body positivity 

_What e-sports players most care about

_Brands who are staying relevant as fandom conventions change rapidly

So on your marks, get set, and go read Crowd Signals: Sports Fandom & Activewear.

Download Crowd Signals: Sports Fandom & Activewear here

Get in touch to find out more about how our Crowd Signals platform can help client challenges. Our AI powered and bespoke offering can be tailored to uncover culture shifts, trends and future opportunities from unstructured data.

In a chaotic cultural landscape, Crowd’s Rachel Rapp and Amy Nicholson present three mindsets that create opportunity in uncertainty…

The last few years have been turbulent across the globe. From climate paralysis and political fatigue, to the cost-of-living crisis and the impact of AI, chaos has become the new normal. Finding what’s good in permacrisis – Collins’s Dictionary word of the year, 2022 – can feel overwhelming.

Luckily, at Crowd DNA, we’re partial to a bit of chaos. As our fundamental human needs shift in response to uncertainty, how we interact with brands also changes, and we think that creates opportunity. Using trends analysis, semiotics and conversations with our KIN network, we’ve identified three mindsets that brands can adopt to make sense of the mayhem. These are: hand holding, distracting, or embracing uncertainty. 

You can get a taste of how to execute against each mindset below. It’s our introduction to how brands can show up for consumers in these incalculable times. There are certainly more mindsets out there to be defined – but we hope these begin to inspire you to think about what’s right for your brand. 

Three Mindsets To Meet Shifting Human Behaviour In Uncertain Times

1. Hand Holding 

Hand holding plays into our human needs for comfort and security. The trick is to offer reassurance and stability by grounding your brand’s touch points with scenes of everyday reality, universal experiences and simple language. While we typically see hand holding in fintech, banking and insurance (industries that are looking to support consumers during the cost-of-living crisis), we’re now seeing brands from other categories presenting themselves as reassuring and stable, too.

Hand Holding: How To…

_Dial up references to familiar rituals. We see this mindset in the Food Love Stories campaign from UK supermarket chain Tesco, emphasising everyday realities – eg a family barbecue. Meanwhile, at London Fashion Week, Burberry took over a London cafe to serve up comfort food (a surprising collision of egg and chips and designer fashion). Both brands are speaking to the need for security through relatability. 

_Incorporate community values and the idea of coming together. The Levi’s 2023 campaign was about people gathering at a funeral in their trusty 501 jeans, with themes of togetherness, support, and to give a sense of belonging.

_Offer a casual, friendly tone of voice. Ganni’s use of informal emoticons suggests a relatable, peer-to-peer relationship with consumers, while Ikea’s language of togetherness creates a sense of camaraderie that cultivates trust and connection.

2. Distraction 

There’s often a craving for distraction from the uncertainty, and brands can offer this with momentary escape. Playing with time – harking back to simpler eras, using nostalgia, or transporting us toward a brighter future – are key tropes within this mindset. After all, an escape from the present is the ultimate distraction from uncertain times. 

Distraction: How To…

_Emphasise intentionally retro aesthetics and allude to nostalgia. The latest design for toaster pastries, Pop-Tarts, is a nostalgia trip back to their iconic 1960s packaging, allowing consumers to be distracted from uncertain times with comforting memories of the past.

_Tap into the surreal. The wellbeing supplement brand, Dirtea, evokes dreamscape imagery that defies reality with a product that actually levitates and positions itself as a portal to a utopian world that distracts from the uncertain present by letting consumers escape.

_Reference futurism through digitised worlds. Coca Cola has catapulted us to the year 3000 with their new release that allows a taste of the future, created using AI, all while using 2023’s Colour of the Year: Digital Lavender. This emphasis on futurist realities invites us to disengage from the present moment.

3. Embracing

This is where brands are really getting stuck into the mess by either doubling down on difficult topics, or making light of uncertainty with relatable humour. Here, we see brands lean into the chaos, by being on the consumer’s side as they find light in the darkness. And, in the more extreme examples, challenging the status quo by forcing the audience to confront an uncomfortable and uncertain future. 

Embracing: How To…

_Get people laughing by playing with the bizarre. Heinz has released its first global ad campaign in 150 years celebrating ‘irrational love’ for the brand, like the idea of putting ketchup on ice-cream, or Heinz tattoos. Elsewhere, product comparison website, Compare The Market uses a witty tone of voice to parody the temperamental British weather. Both are finding humour in the unpredictable.

_Lean into the confrontational and uncomfortable. Balenciaga’s Mud S/S 2023 showcased a dirty, post-apocalyptic world, while Isamaya Beauty has recently presented an extreme otherworldly makeup style. These encourage us to rethink our current way of living by physically immersing us in the darker side of uncertainty.

_Reframe the narrative around uncertainty. The travel planner service, Journee Trips, plays with the language of excitement and mystery to maximise the idea of discovery and adventure; celebrating not knowing your destination until you reach the airport.

Which uncertainty mindset best fits your brand? Or do you tap into another mindset altogether during these turbulent times? To find out more about the opportunities within chaos, please get in touch.

In our latest issue of City Limits we head to Los Angeles as the city prepares to host two of the world’s biggest sports events in the next five years…

City Limits Volume 10 – download it here

For the tenth issue of City Limits – Crowd DNA’s ongoing exploration of the urban experience – we’re exploring sport as another lens to focus on city culture (read previous issues on themes such as mobility and the night economy here). But this time, things are a little different, as we turn our focus onto a single city for once. With the men’s World Cup in 2026 and the Olympic and Paralympic games in 2028 both taking place in LA, the city is uniquely placed to showcase sport today – and forecast how it could look next in our ever-evolving cities. 

These are going to be the first global sports events that Gen Alphas experience as young adults, and the world’s entertainment capital will surely know how to get their attention. Our City Limits reports on how preparations are taking place for this, and what it could look like both off-pitch and on…

The City Limits LA Sports issue combines Crowd DNA’s new research on the Future Of Sport with talking to people on the ground across the city itself, as well as looking at issues like the impact of big events for marginalized urban communities, and brand initiatives during big sports events.

The full 13-page report includes:

_27 emerging trends in sport

_We talked to 500 people across the US for a full survey on the Future Of Sport 

_The conversations about sporting events impact on a city and its community

_A semiotic analysis of what event design reveals about action off the field

_LA right now as Angelenos speak up about what matters to them

City Limits Volume 10: download it here 

Thurs October 5 at 1pm & 5pm BST / 12pm & 5pm EST. RSVP by clicking the first session here and the second session here.

Everything’s A Mess... a webinar on how brands can navigate uncertainty 

As you may have noticed, it’s been a turbulent few years. Shocks of uncertainty feel like they’re coming more seismically and frequently than ever (though, spoiler alert: things have always been uncertain) leaving us, and brands, and consumers in a constant state of flux. 

But it isn’t all doom and gloom. There is good to come from uncertainty, and in chaos lies opportunity. So, how can you find a way through? 

What should brands do or not do? Are you a hand holder, facilitator of escapism, or relatable realist – and what’s right for your brand?

At Crowd DNA we’re all about embracing the messiness of culture. It’s where we think brands can really thrive, and we relish our role as specialists in navigating unknowns. In this webinar we’ll:

_Discover how uncertainty can be a motivator for both consumers and brands

_Explore the human needs that are heightened in response to instability

_Use our trends and semiotics expertise to provide guidance on how brands can speak to these needs, across visuals, language and more

Join Rachel Rapp, futures director, and Amy Nicholson, associate director, futures, on Thurs October 5 to get stuck into the mess.

RSVP by clicking 1pm BST / 8am EST here and 5pm / 12pm EST here.

Reframing Ageing: APAC

The older adult category is stuck in time. Our new report shows how to get in step with today’s 50-plus people who are passionately reframing ageing…

Reframing Ageing: APAC download it here.

As people get to their fifties and sixties, they talk about how they experience ageism – at work, on a billboard, in culture. Our report, focussing on the APAC region, uses the Four Is – Irrelevance, Inferiority, Infantilization and Invisibility – to describe what this feels like. But these experiences are now being roundly rejected. We wanted to look at the people who are growing older but arriving at a life stage and feeling like it actually has so much potential in all areas. 

Reframing Ageing researches the ‘rejecting, reassessing, reclaiming’ of ageing that’s taking place. We use cultural cues, research and talking to our KIN members across APAC – Crowd DNA’s global network of creators and connectors – to show what we can learn about the needs of the 50-plus person and what they want when ageing is reframed….

The Reframing Ageing report introduces the 50-plus person who is completing extreme marathons, starting new businesses, or enjoying edgy fashion (as well as grey hair and going to the doctor more often). These shifting attitudes to ageing make opportunities for new products, media targeting or user images.

The full 35 page report includes:

_Insight on how it feels to experience ageism and where it can alienate customers

_Three emerging trends in ageing: Rejecting ageing – Reassessing ageing, and Reclaiming ageing

_Interviews with our KIN network about ageing positivity 

_Spotlight on what we can learn for products and brands

_Data on how the culture around ageing effects people in work and well-being

Reframing Ageing: APAC download it here