KIN is our global network of creators and connectors. Meet the leading edge collaborators ready to help brands stay at the forefront of culture
22 March, 2019
Ever since Crowd DNA’s first insight project, over a decade ago, we’ve been predicting what’s next for brands by connecting with those at the epicentre of emergent culture. Now, we’re bringing these leading edge voices together through KIN – a curated global network.
KIN means we can get up close and personal with cultural shifts as they happen, better understanding how new ideas take hold. This platform, with divisions managed locally from our offices in London, New York, Yangon, Bangkok and Singapore, allows us to connect brands with impressive talent in categories ranging from footballers and fashion influencers to writers and next gen entrepreneurs. You name the category – we’ve got it covered.
Key to KIN is close collaboration with the Crowd DNA team. So while KIN is made up of those at the sharp end of trends, we have the wider lens on global consumer behaviour and category innovations. This means we can translate findings into cultural strategies primed for large audiences. Combined, KIN and Crowd DNA offer something that we think is pretty special.
Our KIN network comprises more than 1,000 talented and inspirational creators and connectors, spanning cities such as Shanghai, Mumbai, Jakarta, Tokyo, Berlin, Barcelona, London, New York, Los Angeles, Sao Paolo and Buenos Aires.
While the possibilities are near endless, there are a number of key ways that we bring KIN into play for our clients:
– Reporting on live culture: contributing to industry and trend reports, events and content, from angles both wide and specific
– Connecting culture: helping clients to understand culture through myriad methods – from workshops to interviews – and also how to leverage it effectively
– Creating culture: partnering members of KIN with clients to create and facilitate cultural content such as brand journalism
Our KIN network has already been tapped into by brands including Pernod Ricard, Nike and IKEA – if you’re interested in how you can work with it, get in touch here.
Keep scrolling down to find out how we design KIN projects and to meet a few of our culture-shaping, fresh idea-generating, super-energised members.
KIN has been created with bespoke projects in mind, rather than as a one-size-fits-all ‘product’. However, these are the typical stages of the project design process:
1. Establishing the project objectives: the development of new products or experiences; to shape up comms or brand positioning; to ready for new markets; or more broadly to identify trends and prepare for change?
2. Ascertaining which markets are of interest (or indeed if a wider global or regional view is preferred)
3. Next, talking through the details, such as:
+ If there’s an interest in your stakeholders spending time with our KIN contributors, or if the work should be carried out remotely, via digital platforms
+ Whether we want our KIN contributors collaborating with each other, or working solo
+ If you envisage this as a short term project or would like a more longitudinal view
+ Casting the right mix of KIN contributors for your project, such as if it makes sense to work with those closely involved in your category and the culture surrounding it, or if there’s a benefit in engaging with those who can bring transferable learnings from markedly different fields
4. Not losing sight of the objectives! Defining exactly how we’re going to get from engaging with the KIN network through to meeting commercial needs; setting the KPIs
5. From there, mapping out for you the full project design, costs and timeline
Founder of YSM8, London
Director & editor-in-chief, Manual Jakarta, Jakarta
Pro skateboarder, London
Founder of Punchy Drinks, London
Industrial designer, Singapore
Photographer, Indonesia & Japan
Founder of Van Zee Sign Co, New York
Editor, curator & creative producer, Berlin
Architect, designer, writer, film-maker & founder of A White Space Creative Agency, Lagos
More interviews with our KIN members will follow, but to start things off, we gathered up some of their thoughts on culture – what it means to them and to their work – who inspires them and how their respective industries are changing.
Poonam Dhuffer – founder of YSM8, London
Poonam Dhuffer has always worked up close in culture, cutting her teeth as a trends consultant before starting the YSM8 (yes mate!) supper club in 2018. YSM8 works as a series of events that bring together vegetarian Punjabi cuisine and global beats, with the aim of celebrating and educating people about Sikh-Punjabi culture. Pooonam is an advocate for cultural diversity and is passionate about researching and writing food stories – she is a contributor to gal-dem magazine, Vice’s Munchies and Refinery29. In her spare time (apparently she does have some) she’s studying philosophy and learning to DJ.
How do you apply culture to your work?
Poonam: To me, culture is everything we’re surrounded by – from behaviour and attitudes to our choices in what we wear. It’s not even about how I apply culture, because it just is. I’m not trying to be something I’m not.
Everything from the menu, food, branding, curated playlist and visuals, to how I communicate with my audience is a reflection of my culture. Aspects of both south east London and Sikh-Punjabi culture are woven into every aspect.
There’s culture behind the name, too. I decided to call it YSM8 ( yes mate!) firstly because it’s how I greet my friends; secondly, because I always say this when I’m cooking or eating something that’s seriously tasty. It’s also loaded with memories. When I was younger, I used to visit a lot of fruit and veg markets with my dad. The stall holders always greeted him with ‘yes mate’. YSM8 is a positive universal affirmation that a majority of people can understand.
All of the YSM8 events begin with authentic storytelling. I share a short story with our guests about the meaning behind the food, my relationship to the dish and the labour of love involved. YSM8 is about celebrating my British Punjabi identity; it’s about educating people about this demographic; it’s about empowering young creative South Asians and other people of colour. We create affordable events for an inclusive community. We want people to connect in real life and we do that by facilitating these cultural supper clubs. We’ve just launched The YSM8 Podcast, where I explore identity, representation, spirituality, creativity and food stories through a British-South Asian lens.
Culture is everything we’re surrounded by – from behaviour and attitudes to our choices in what we wear
Hadi Ismanto & Julius Kensan – director & editor-in-chief, Manual Jakarta, Jakarta
Dubbed as ‘by the people of Jakarta, for the people of Jakarta’, Hadi Ismanto founded Manual back in 2013, when it started as an online city guide for locals and returning Indonesians. Its vision has always been heavily defined by its design and the quality of its curation, across food, fashion, arts and culture. Rather than listing ‘what’s cool’, it aims to educate people on a deeper, more substantive set of experiences, a compass for recognising quality, in line with its educated, globalised and cultured young readership.
We always hear that Indonesia is a country of contradictions – what best represents that?
Hadi: Yes, there’s something that’s distinctly Indonesian in this. There’s a strong conservatism and actually a trend towards modesty that’s growing today, but then on the other hand we have a thriving local music scene called ‘Dandut’, which is all women in skin-tight clothes, gyrating on stage with snakes. It’s like there are certain things we focus on at any one time, but it’s subject to change, so people don’t always take it that seriously.
Julius: But there is a general ‘wokeness’ among this educated, globalised youth and it’s based on what they see on social media. They are aware of much more and they have identified issues that they know need to be fought for.
There is a general ‘wokeness’ among this educated, globalised youth and it’s based on what they see on social media. They have identified issues that they know need to be fought for
Helena Long – pro skateboarder, London
Now collaborating with Vans and other major skate brands, Helena Long’s professional skateboarding career began, humbly, with Tony Hawk’s PlayStation game, and a Poundstretcher board. Born and raised in south east London, she studied illustration at Norwich University Of The Arts, before moving back to London – which remains home when she’s not travelling the globe. As well as skating for a living, she also plays in a band called Upset Stomach and works part-time at Somerset House.
Are you excited about skateboarding’s future, with its inclusion in the 2020 Olympics?
Helena: The present for me is particularly exciting, rather than the future. Skateboarding as a trend always comes and goes in waves, and after the 2020 Olympics, I feel it could go either way. However, the build-up to the Olympics has seen a lot of media attention and investment, which has brought along amazing opportunities for skateboarding, and female skateboarders in particular.
The build-up to the Olympics has seen a lot of media attention, which has brought amazing opportunities for skateboarding, and female skateboarders in particular
Paddy Cavanagh-Butler – founder of Punchy Drinks, London
Paddy Cavanagh-Butler was working in marketing, but, after a holiday with friends, his life took a whole new direction. “I picked up a load of rum in duty-free to make a batch of punch for the week, and decided to experiment by creating a non-alcoholic version for my friend who couldn’t drink that week. She really felt a part of the group, because her drink was the same in all but its alcohol content. When I got back to London, I thought, hang on, there’s something in this.”
What are the biggest shifts in your industry at present?
Paddy: There are so many, but I think the biggest is the shift towards premium and craft brands, as more consumers take greater care about what they’re drinking and who made it.
Also, the rise of sugar-free and no or low alcohol drinks – brought on by the younger generation, in particular. Lastly, the influx of premixed cocktails, and cocktails on tap, as the science improves.
The younger generation, in particular, are shunning sugar and drinking less alcohol than ever
Deby Sucha – photographer, Indonesia & Japan
Deby Sucha is an Indonesian photographer. She’s currently based in Japan and has been working for over 10 years making documentary-style media. A lot of her subjects are women – especially indigenous women captured in their everyday lives. For Deby, photography is a form of self-expression. But the most important part of it is to build a relationship with the people and the surroundings.
How do you apply culture to your work?
Deby: As an Indonesian, culture is in our roots. Whatever we do, we have to look for the cultural base and understand the foundations – it’s just the way we think. It helps us decide everything and that’s how I grew up.
I never chose to make documentaries but it’s just something I do naturally when I explore – I’ve always questioned things; culture, religion, everything. Photography is really just the medium I use to express my feelings and ideas. I always have to find the answer and really understand something – the way it is and why, before I can shoot it.
Whatever we do, we have to look for the cultural base and understand the foundations – it’s just the way we think
Will Van Zee – visual artist & founder of Van Zee Sign Co, New York
Will Van Zee is a Brooklyn-based visual artist and founder of Van Zee Sign Co. Blending his background in fabrication, fine art, product design and graffiti, he develops unique, hand-painted sign and mural solutions for exciting businesses of all shapes and sizes, bringing true craft back to the sometimes debased art of signage. Then, for the wider view, a passion for travel sees him documenting creativity, signs and culture throughout the world, bringing fresh ideas back to base camp.
Tell us about one of your heroes:
Will: I try not to idolise anyone to an extreme, as we are all just human after all. That being said, Damon Albarn has been writing the soundtrack of my life since childhood. His music has been a huge inspiration for me in times of joy, as well as loss. The way he is able to redefine his style with every album drop, and his ability to collaborate with an incredibly diverse group of musicians has kept me in awe.
Describe the power of culture in five words:
Will: Everyone wants to fit in.
His passion for travel sees him documenting creativity, signs and culture throughout the world, bringing fresh ideas back to base camp
Zsuzsanna Toth – editor, curator & creative producer, Berlin
Zsuzsanna Toth is a freelance writer, curator and producer, working at the intersection of branding and journalism across physical and digital media. With a wide network in the industry, and experience in editorial, buying, production and social media, she is passionate about finding ways to tell compelling but real stories.
What are the biggest shifts in your industry at present?
Zsuzsanna: The dilemma caused by digitalisation. On the one hand, there’s a sense we’re entirely losing touch with physical media. But on the other, people are actually embracing the physical again, like it’s a brand new thing. Things like print are having a resurgence and I think we’re more appreciative of craft and conversations.
Things like print are having a resurgence and I think we’re more appreciative of craft and conversations
Papa Omotayo – architect, designer, writer, film-maker & founder of A Whitespace Creative Agency, Lagos
Papa Omotayo is an award-winning architect, designer, writer and filmmaker living and working in Lagos. A strong believer in creating work through cross-disciplinary collaboration and participation, he strives to find new possibilities for creating nuanced visual narratives in Africa’s urban centres and beyond. He is the founder of A Whitespace Creative Agency and creative director of MOE + Architecture.
How do you apply culture to your work?
Papa: Local culture is always our starting point of reference. We begin with what we see, what is real, and that informs the conversations we will focus on throughout the project, intervention, or visual manifestation. It’s not always about literal representations of culture, but it’s always about telling stories that seem specific to a context.
We begin with what we see, what is real, and that informs the conversations we will focus on throughout the project
To explore options for how to collaborate with our KIN network get in touch here. We’d love to hear from you…
22 March, 2019