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For New York Fashion Week this month, New Balance is using AI to identify and reward people on the street who defy trends. Prior to NYFW, the sneaker brand’s computer scientists gathered data on current fashion trends. Once the Be The Exception campaign launched, AI-powered cameras spotted (in real-time) pedestrians whose outfits looked different; as New Balance’s Global Marketing Director explained, “the idea is to celebrate people who go left when everybody else is going right.” Those uniquely-dressed individuals were then given a pair of the brand’s sneakers.

We know, we know: a trend firm spotlighting an explicitly ‘anti-trend’ initiative? What?! Let’s walk through why this is an innovation you can learn from, even if you’re not in catering to the fashionistas of NYFW ;)

- Successful trend-driven brands understand - and tap into - deeply held human needs and desires. Here, New Balance speaks to the desire to be seen as unique, and the resulting status that comes from that. So far, so fashion. 

- Opportunities arise when new ways emerge to serve these basic human needs. In this case, winners had their uniqueness verified by a higher power: artificial intelligence! At fashion week, that’s almost heretical!

- Where once we had clicks and likes, now we have endless new forms of data: visual, emotional, biometric. Yes, the obvious caveats apply (be cool, not creepy!) but here’s a powerful exercise: which data is relevant to your brand that was totally impossible to collect 3 years ago? What novel customer experiences could you create with it?

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