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New Balance will put cameras around a booth in New York City to scan the streets in order to find people who look unique or different to the norm.
It's part of a marketing campaign called "Be The Exception," according to a report on Fast Company, and people it identifies as looking different will be offered a free pair of its $89.95 Fresh Foam Cruz Nubuck sneakers on Monday, the start of New York fashion week.
New Balance worked with agency VML to scan crowds of people collect data about fashion trends in the weeks running up to the New York event, but the cameras around the booth in Soho will use machine learning to find anomalies to these trends.
New Balance called this "real time exception spotting" in a statement emailed to CNBC. It does not use facial recognition technology and data will be anonymized and aggregated, and the company might use the information to inform its new products, Fast Company reports.
When fashion week comes to town, trendsetters wear their best outfits in the hope of featuring on the street style pages of glossy magazines and of course on Instagram. But New Balance wants to find people going against those trends.
"The idea is to celebrate people who go left when everybody else is going right," New Balance's director of global marketing Allie Tsavdarides told Fast Company. The company will also use the new technology in Toronto, Stockholm and Madrid this fall.
New Balance launched its latest marketing line "Fearlessly Independent Since 1906," in February, to show its "non-conventional values," and presumably differentiate itself from newer companies such as Nike and Adidas. Its vice president of Global Marketing Chris Davis explained in an online statement at the time: "Today's society is often defined by conformist actions and we believe consumers are looking for authentic, real brands that defy convention."
The company's 840v2 shoe made it on to Vogue's list of ugly-chic "Dad sneakers" to wear to music festival Coachella. Sneakers are having a moment, according to data from NPD Group, with sales of women's sneakers up 37 percent in the U.S. last year. Meanwhile, sales of high heels were down 11 percent.
Privately-owned New Balance reported sales of $4 billion in 2017.