What’s one part consumer-insights incubator, one part product-development micro-machine, and one (maybe even two) parts trend hunter? It’s The 400, an independent creative-services firm in Denver that is also a retail storefront where you can buy limited-edition sneakers and lifestyle apparel.
Leaving focus groups and post-analysis lag time in the dust, The 400 is rethinking the way marketers use beta culture and apply shopper insights about ‘core’ cultures. For these guys, the most valuable wisdom is pulled directly from the source. It’s insight hunting in real-time, and that’s what makes it so compelling. When every retail transaction can inform future marketing communications, there’s a lot of reason to pay attention.
Case in point: The partnership The 400 has established with brand licensing and management firm Collective International, LLC (whose clients include Airwalk, Sims, and Lamar). Several times a year, The 400 pulls youth-culture insights on behalf of Collective International and creates custom marketing and design tools based on the findings. Insight reports, ranging from Consumer Usage Trends to Footwear Market Direction, help Collective International keep their fingers on the pulse of key influencers in youth fashion, music, technology, and sports.
This approach has led to some dynamic marketing work for skate/snow/art/punk culture brands, a result of blurring (and breaching) the lines between the brand and the consumer. It could be argued that the brand and the consumer sometimes meld into one. It’s a group-mind approach that reflects The 400’s goal of creating “brand communication solutions that resonate and form emotionally driven loyalty between consumers and brands.”
The 400 believe the insights they gather for their clients at their own store will help them stay plugged into the ever-evolving landscape of core consumer behavior. For us, the implications of this experiment are just as telling: the closer we can get to the front lines of retail, the more organic the insights become, and the more our brands become a part of the conversation.
Get the scoop on what’s going on at The 400 at the400.net.
– Contributed by Patrick Sullivan