City Nights: Nairobi

Shishi Wanj works as a DJ, writer, curator and model, and is passionate about being part of the creative community in her hometown of Nairobi. 

“Nightlife is important to Nairobians because we live in a very stressful city.

It’s hard and chaotic, so we see dancing and laughter as a sense of release or a purge.

It’s our time to finally stop thinking for a minute, to dance the night away and have fun with friends.”

When I picture nights in Nairobi it’s with dancing, laughter… and a lot of drinks

“There is a lot of club-hopping because there’s so much to do in the city. I like to joke that Covid switched our brains up because I feel like people party a lot harder now than they used to. I think that’s from the cabin fever of that time and making the most of being out again. And there is now a lot more intentional support for creative events.”

You might want to go to ten shows in one weekend

“… and you wonder how to go to all of them. We are more intentional about showing up for artists because we really understood their value during the pandemic because we missed it. People want to attend events, to support artists or organise and connect people.”

Dancing till the sun rises at The Alchemist, The Kenya Rooftop and The Mist

We have a reputation as a party city

“We have lots of ‘underground’ or cool places – right now the cool kids, up and coming artists and DJs go to The Mist, Shelter, The Alchemist and The Kenya Rooftop to see experiments in dancing, sound and visuals. Most of the clubs and events usually take place in the Westlands area.” 

Bars close at 2am but the party continues…

“Oh yes, yes. I could send you some videos! When people come to the city they are like: “Oh my goodness!” And then they want to stay longer. Our parties start at 6pm with our pre-game of dinner or a local drink, then it’s on to a club, which are packed by midnight. Then it can continue on and on and on and on. Until it’s daylight. We definitely have a reputation for lots and lots of dancing and lots and lots of partying and music that keeps us together and up and alive! Nairobi is a party city.”

We have a lot of creative artists in the city

“There are so many people who don’t want to work in an office, they want to be musicians, rappers, set designers or promoters and it’s natural that then leads to us all thinking, let’s create a good time for people. The party scene is a fusion of both a natural release, but also an expression of what people can do. We’re now seeing the next generation after the Nu Nairobi scene from 2015 – and these up and coming artists also know how to grow and reach global audiences, helping the outdated assumptions of what Kenyan music/art should look and sound to rapidly fade off.”

If I can describe Nairobi in three words… “Vibrant. Bold. Gritty.”


To delve into more city life read City Limits, our series of pieces exploring the urban experience here.

Join Crowd DNA Amsterdam’s Luzie Richt and London’s Dr Jennifer Simon for our latest webinar in Amsterdam, as we look at the changing articulations of womanhood and how brands can respond...


April 22, 15:00-15:45 CET – sign up

(Access via Demio; 45 minutes, followed by Q&A)


We’re very excited to confirm our latest webinar in Amsterdam, in which we’ll explore how women are represented in culture and how brands can engage with a more future-facing portrayal through gender literacy.

With 80 percent of Gen Z women identifying as feminist, but around half of young men claiming that feminism has ‘gone too far’, there’s plenty to discuss. This webinar will join the conversation by exploring the female story – from current representations within the themes of family, relationships and self expression; to examining how narratives are being disrupted and reimagined by culturally relevant brands.   

Presented by Crowd DNA Amsterdam’s Luzie Richt and London’s Dr Jennifer Simon, this session will consider:

– The dominant representation of ‘womanhood’ in three key areas – sex and relationships, family and self expression

– What the new, emergent codes are, and how semiotics can help unpack them

– How brands can take inspiration from the multitude of ways women live their lives

– What all this means for brands looking to future proof and remain culturally relevant to their audience

– How to keep up as more expressions of identity evolve and scripts of gender are rewritten.

We hope you can make it!


April 22, 15:00-15:45 CET – sign up

(Access via Demio; 45 minutes, followed by Q&A)


Crowd DNA New York reflect on their Culture At Scale election predictions and what we can learn about trends in American culture...

This post is the final part of our Click State series covering the US election, analyzing digital activations and online conversation (using our Culture At Scale method) and turning emergent trends into valuable learnings.


Post election day (week), Americans across the country have felt a whole slew of emotions; loss, relief, joy, confusion – to name just a few. Looking back over the emergent trends we spotted during our analysis of online conversations, we can see how our hypotheses have since performed in the wake of Biden’s win.

Connecting with young Latinx voters in Arizona flipped the historically red state blue.
Connecting with young Latinx voters in Arizona flipped the historically red state blue.

Localizing The American Identity

In our first post, we explored the idea that the collective American identity doesn’t feel relevant to the localized needs of specific states across the US.

We saw both Wisconsin and Arizona flip blue after leaning red. There was a huge turnout of Black voters in Wisconsin, a state where this community has long fought voter suppression. With messaging from the Democratic party around Black Lives Matter and programs urging Black citizens to vote early, it’s clear that directly speaking to a population with their specific needs in mind can drive change. Similarly in Arizona, Biden’s campaigning to young Latinx voters drove them to the polls for him.

However, in Florida, where Democratic candidates focused on hyper-local issues, they missed a huge voter bloc: Cuban and Venezuelan-Americans. Because of their countries of origin, this population was immediately deterred by notions of the party’s ties to socialism (despite other unfavored ideals of Trump). In juxtaposition with Wisconsin and Arizona, we see that while candidates catered to Floridians’ needs, the party’s overarching story failed to address the concerns of important voting blocs. This proves the importance of focusing on local identities while ensuring they’re cohesive with the larger story.

Democrat or Republican, Americans on TikTok find unity in the faults of our political system.
Democrat or Republican, Americans on TikTok find unity in the faults of our political system.

Mobilizing On TikTok

In our analysis of TikTok and the election, we investigated how the platform makes the world feel smaller, builds camaraderie and empowers its users.

Immediately following the result, conversation about the election gave way to a sense of coming together as Americans. TikTok users on both political sides hashtagged states like Texas and Florida to discuss the nail-biting races in those locales. Jokes were made about Wisconsin and Pennsylvania flipping at the last minute, and Texas defaulting red despite speculation. This shows that no matter how divided America may feel politically, we can still find common ground in a shared ability to laugh at elements unique to American politics. It’s through this ability to poke fun at ourselves that Americans find unity on platforms like TikTok.

From serious to humorous, brands expressed opinions on the election's outcome in a range of ways.
From serious to humorous, brands expressed opinions on the election's outcome in a range of ways.

Brand Allies

In our third installment, we discussed how brands are presenting themselves as institutions we can look to for guidance – and, in turn, how Americans are expecting more from the companies they choose to spend with.

We explored how brands are being expected to pick a side. We saw Patagonia, for example, clearly standing against Trump. But what does this look like post-election? So far we can see brands either blatantly or more subtly celebrating Biden’s win. Brands like Oreo have promoted the result (and themselves) with messages like “It’s a Double Stuf Oreo type of day.”

But the brands we should keep a closer eye on are the ones who stay true to their claims now that the election is over. For example, MTV put its resources into urging young voters to get out to the polls. Now, they’ve taken a clear stand with the president-elect, reminding young Americans that the fight isn’t wrapped up. This both shows solidarity with their audience and a long-term commitment to social justice and political influence.

Through this exploration of conversations during the election, it’s clear we can no longer lump Americans together as one nation. Brands need to consider the individual, and very specific, identities that define our citizens and make up our states. Similarly, taking a stand and picking a side shouldn’t be shied away from. But, even with these points in mind, brands can still play an important role in unifying the country via humor, creativity and helping us laugh at ourselves.

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)

Crowd DNA New York’s Eden Lauffer examines the ways in which film and TV teen narratives must evolve to resonate with the complex identities of Gen Z...

Today’s teens draw from an array of influences that weren’t available to generations before them. Consider the effects of teenhood played out alongside the internet, versus an analogue adolescence of decades gone by: the worldwide web alone provides inspiration and opinions, outlets for creative expression and peer pressure in equal measure. As the challenges and motivations of teens have changed drastically over time, media responses have shifted to reflect this complexity.

Here, we challenge film to stray from the traditional and highly stereotyped coming-of-age story – as portrayed in high school classics like The Breakfast Club (1985) and Mean Girls (2004) to speak more authentically to Gen Zers. 

Smashing stereotypes

In the early 2000s, film began to sympathetically make light of the awkward teenage years, rather than mocking them. Recall the lead in 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) getting too drunk at a party and dancing on the table, or American Pie’s (1999) lead unknowingly doing a strip tease on a livestream for the whole school. These embarrassing moments of 90s film read as negative.

Julia Stiles's character Kat 'getting trashed because that's what you're supposed to do at parties' in 10 Things I Hate About You
Julia Stiles's character Kat 'getting trashed because that's what you're supposed to do at parties' in 10 Things I Hate About You

The early 2000s instead celebrated the sheer embarrassment of being a teenager and told us not to take it too seriously. Those who were previously labeled outcasts or geeks now reigned as sarcastic, witty leads. For example, in Superbad (2007), the protagonists were nerdy boys striving to impress girls they’ve always crushed on, while in Easy A (2010) our bookish lead hilariously conquered the double standard against high school girls and sexuality.

Emma Stone's character, Olive, takes back 'the scarlet letter' in <em>Easy A</em>
Emma Stone's character, Olive, takes back 'the scarlet letter' in Easy A

Meanwhile, outside of the US, millennial teens got an even more raw narrative on the teenage experience. Humour was a vehicle to tackle teen challenges often viewed as taboo – from sex, drugs, bullying and teenage pregnancy. In Canada, Degrassi (2001) allowed teens to fumble through mistakes without neatly tying episodes up with a moral message (as was done in the 90s). In the UK, Skins (2007) showed awkward struggles, with taboo teenage moments served with a side of surrealism. But while these dramas were seen to be more gritty and ‘real’, they were also criticized for glamorizing teenage rebellion. 

Embracing the messiness of teendom

Moving on from the Skins and Degrassi’s kids breaking the rules, recent depictions have looked at the more everyday struggles of Gen Z – from online bullying to FOMO. 

While remaining extremely innocent, Eighth Grade (2018) used actual kids (acne and all) to make each painful moment of being 13 palpable, coupling awkwardness with the complexities of being a teenager in the age of social media. Similarly, Lady Bird (2017) shone a light on the tension-ridden mother-daughter relationship, making its angsty, precocious protagonist relatable. These kinds of ‘everygirl’ leading ladies would both have previously been sidelined in teen film, but now their limelight gives teens someone strong, yet familiarly flawed and smart, yet naive, to relate to. 

<em>Eighth Grade</em> - growing up online
Eighth Grade - growing up online

This summer, Booksmart (2019) graced us with something perhaps more akin to the ‘regular’ high school experience. Like Superbad, the story follows two hard-working girls who feel they’ve missed out on the classic high school experience. As they seize their opportunity on the night before graduation, going to a party and kissing the boys and girls they like, they interact with a range of different teenage characters along the way. This film sourced its relatability through letting the audience know that everyone lives out high school in their own way, and that’s okay. 

Complex and hybrid

While Booksmart successfully captures relatable high schoolers, each character is still fairly one dimensional, defined by a single characteristic: nerdy, stoner, slutty, etc. For Gen Zers, identity is defined by several factors existing alongside each other – race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity, political views, social justice involvement – the list goes on. They don’t want to be pigeon-holed or defined by a singular trait. 

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018) weaves the lead’s Asian heritage into the storyline, making it a celebratory narrative. Euphoria (2019) plays on the typical teen archetypes, but muddies them with complexity. We still have jocks and popular girls, but each sits on a spectrum of gender identity and sexuality, insecurity and confidence. In Big Little Lies (2018), a child suffers a panic attack because of her overwhelming anxiety about climate change. Both in Euphoria and 13 Reasons Why (2017), toxic masculinity (used to conceal one’s sexuality) has an extremely detrimental impact on said character and those around them. Of all the titles mentioned above, only one (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) has a rating that would even allow teen viewing. 

Owning your heritage as part of your identity in To All The Boys I've Loved Before
Owning your heritage as part of your identity in To All The Boys I've Loved Before

There’s still room for progress

There’s evidence that film is beginning to consider the multidimensional, contradictory nature of Gen Zers, but more can be done to make characters feel authentic to teens in a setting that’s PG enough for them to watch themselves. Diversity also remains an issue, with Zendaya becoming one of the first black, teen female leads in a major channel show, and Hunter Schaffer the first trans actor (Euphoria). 

However, tension will forever lie in the contrasting needs to achieve both entertainment and realism. Film is meant to help us escape our own realities, so run of the mill house parties are unlikely to ever be featured on screen. But where is the happy medium between truly relatable and glamourized? Continuing to build on representing a range of teenage voices seems a good place to start.

There are currently more than 2.5billion Gen Zers worldwide. For more thinking on how to speak to this generation and its duality, check out our work on the Hybrid States Of Gen Z

Our new thinking around Gen Z has landed. Here's our Hybrid States model, including a chance to download the full Hybrid Generation report...

Download the full Gen Z: Hybrid States report here.

Gen Z are many things. They’re health obsessed, alcohol avoiders with a plan to save the planet; but they’re also everyday teenagers intent on breaking rules. While this duality can be a daunting prospect for brands to engage with, one thing is very easy to grasp – Gen Z are now the biggest generation on earth.

With that pressing fact in mind, our latest breakfast was dedicated to the launch of a new framework for getting to grips with Gen Z – a model that we’re calling: Hybrid States. Presented by Crowd DNA’s London managing director Dr Matilda Andersson and senior consultant Rachel Rapp, today’s young adults were described as a generation defined by their own duality.

Thanks to the unique context that they’ve grown up in (think polarised, yet hyperconnected), Gen Z’s values and motivations are combining in unconventional ways. Combinations that we’re now labelling, and embracing, as Hybrid States. Using Schwartz’s Theory Of Basic Human Values, our presenters showed how their motivations are blending and fusing together. As it turns out, Gen Z’s value states are never binary and don’t plot easily on the map, which, when you think about it, is pretty exciting.

We’ve identified nine of these Hybrid States that we see Gen Z occupying. Providing fertile creative ground for brands of all shapes and sizes, you can read more about opportunities for winning with Gen Z in our full Hybrid States report – available to download here.

And keep an eye out over the next couple of weeks as we bring Gen Z’s Hybrid States to life in nine short films.

The nine hybrid states of Gen Z...
The nine hybrid states of Gen Z...

Download the full Gen Z: Hybrid States report here.

When Gen Z become parents

As Gen Z start to reach parenthood, Crowd DNA New York’s Eden Lauffer forecasts what brands should expect from the next wave of parents...

Pew Research Center recently defined Gen Z as those born between 1997 and 2012 (so, today’s seven to 22 year-olds). From what we know so far, they’re a diverse and open-minded generation who’ve grown up enjoying the benefits of social media at their fingertips. Yet, equally, they’re also a group associated with high levels of anxiety and an overwhelming pressure to project success, both online and off.

Now that older Gen Zers have started to enter the workforce and, generally speaking, more of them will begin having children a few milestones down the road, it’s interesting to think how this group will approach and redefine parenthood. Furthermore, with a personal shopping power of $143 billion (according to Forbes), brands should be prepared for this generation to soon take family household shopping by storm. They may still be young, but we thought we’d wish away their years with a few key ways to start thinking about this next generation of parents.

Breaking The Mold

According to NPR, 48 percent of Gen Zers in the US are non-white and, according to Ipsos Mori, only 66 percent identify as ‘exclusively heterosexual,’ making them the most diverse cohort in history. This has already built a generation of outspoken individuals, taking a stand on issues like LGBTQ rights, racial bias and inequality, and plenty of other issues. As parents, Gen Zers are likely to value empathy and teach their children tolerance and acceptance of others.

Naturally, brands that embrace diversity will continue to thrive. Many parents have already strayed from typical gender norms when it comes to baby toys and names – and this will no doubt extend further. In the realm of fashion, for example, brands that were born genderless, like Phluid Project, will continue to prosper, with genderless clothing something more children’s fashion brands should definitely consider (Gap are already paving the way with their neutral baby clothes).

The Power Of Social

Gen Zers are also stereotyped for spending hours curating their lives on social media. While this may have negative associations with mental health, it could also have positive use cases for parenting.

In a study done by Collage Group, over 70 percent of Gen Z females without children felt FOMO regularly, but only 36 percent with children felt the same. It seems the presence of kids may actually reduce some of the negative impacts of social media. For example, Gen Zer Kylie Jenner has spoken about her desire to keep her role as a mom private from her (very) public life. This change has bled into her overall social media use: cutting back on what she posts and the amount that she does so.

Furthermore, being a generation known to trust recommendations from social media feeds when it comes to brands and products, this may also bleed into their shopping choices for children. They currently respond well to the recommendations of peer influencers, which may later translate into parenting purchase decisions and kid-friendly brand advice.

Everyday Coping Mechanisms

In recent years, the teen suicide rate has increased drastically – over 70 percent among 10-17 year-olds from 2006-2016, according to USA Today. However, 37 percent of Gen Zers also reported seeking help from mental health professionals (CNN), which is significantly higher than millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers.

As parents, Gen Zers are likely to emphasize the importance of mental health. They’re expected to help their children deal with life stressors in a different way than their parents did for them. Digital-native brands that help promote good mental health, such as Headspace and Talkspace, will likely thrive and give way to like-minded services designed for kids. Mindfulness apps aren’t just to benefit adults – Gen Z parents will likely get their children in the practice of using tools of their own. Apps like Calm, which tells stories to soothe users to sleep, have been recommended for kids, as have other apps that help kids with anxiety through journaling, body awareness and meditation.

Gen Zers are already firmly taking the reins on social issues, such as mental health, as well as paving the way for new types of family units, via genderless purchases. Brands will need to pay close attention to Gen Z’s values in order to keep up with this high spending, change-igniting generation on the brink of parenthood.

With urban environments changing rapidly, our third issue of City Limits dives into youth culture's past, present and future…

Having first delved into the urban experience in Volume One, then taken a ride into mobility in Volume TwoVolume Three of City Limits has us exploring urban living from the perspective of young people.  

It’s impossible to think of youth culture without thinking of cities. Traditionally, they’ve gone hand in hand; it’s within our urban hubs that young people have ignited new trends, with creativity delivered direct from the streets. But cities are changing – free spaces are being squeezed out, gentrification is altering their complexion – and youth culture is changing along with it. 

In this issue, we explore the history of youth culture claiming its space in the city; we pinpoint the urban tribes of today; the challenge the online world presents to the city; and highlight best-in-class examples of brands connecting with young urban trends

City Limits Volume Three is available to download here.

And you can watch the video trailer below: