Brain Reserve, New York
History: Founded company in 1974. Author of four books including "The Popcorn Report."
Method: Traditional market research, ethnographies, Trend Treks on the street, plus 8,000 global experts in its TalentBank and 50 employees using a CIA methodology to form hypotheses and build out cases for what will happen and what that means.
Clients: Tylenol, Tyson, Nike
"What is making marketers want to understand [trend insights] is their main medium of communicating, the TV commercial, will be taken away."
Intelligence Group, New York
History: Wrote a book at age 17 called "Teens Speak Out." Ran youth marketing groups at several agencies before founding Intelligence Group in 1996. Recently became subsidiary of Creative Artists Agency.
Method: Focus groups, quantitative surveys, traditional market research, plus 2,000 online and 10,000 mainstream consumers reporting in.
Clients: Cosmopolitan, L'Oreal, Microsoft, Paramount Pictures
"People are much more fluent in marketing than they ever were. But that doesn’t mean people don’t like marketing."
Mary Meehan and Vickie Abrahamson
History: Founded Iconoculture in 1992. Before that, Ms. Meehan worked in licensing at a literary agency and spent 10 years in marketing at retailer Dayton Hudson. Ms. Abrahamson was a founding partner of brand-naming and new product development company, Icon Intergalactic.
Method: An observation, analysis and application methodology influenced by cultural anthropology and semiotics.
Client sample: MTV, General Mills, Ford Motor Co., Marriott
"The critical thinking of trend translating is what separates it from simply trendspotting. Trendspotting only gets at the who, what and where. Marketers and business people need to know the why."
The Zandl Group, New York
History: Founded Zandl Group in 1986. Before that, spent 10 years in marketing departments of L'Oreal, Revlon and Andrea Products.
Method: Traditional market research, ongoing immersions, ethnographies, panels, crib chats, ongoing surveys of 3,000 young people ages 8-24, "directional" research among enthusiasts and insider roundtables with people on the forefront with consumers such as bartenders and wedding planners.
Client sample: Walt Disney Co., Bacardi, General Motors
"Clients come to us for trend work because they want to understand what’s going on with the consumer in a broader sense, not just in their specific category. They want to identify what’s next for their business and they want to dial up their cultural relevancy by tapping into the right trends in the right way."
DeeDee Gordon and Sharon Lee
Look-Look, Hollywood, Calif.
History: Founded Look-Look in 1999. Before that, Ms. Gordon ran youth trend research groups for several companies; Ms. Lee worked at Ketchum Communications in youth brand marketing.
Method: Surveys, field reports (10,000-plus members of Team Look-Look), photo research, ethnography, man-on-the-street, mall intercept, traditional and nontraditional focus groups, custom message boards, personal interview, custom blogs.
Client sample: Pepsi, Calvin Klein, Nike, Coca Cola Co.
"It has to be a culture shift. Companies can’t just say ‘Consumer insights, oh God, what are they talking about now?’ They have to invest the money and the infrastructure to communicate with consumers and keep those lines open for two-way communications."
Ubercool, San Francisco
History: Launched Ubercool this year. Before that, highlights from his career include founding MacWeek magazine in 1987, creating Iconocast in 1997, then Trendscape in 2002.
Method: Traditional market research, passed along information, "endless Googling" and maintaining an ongoing database of trends. He's currently tracking 36 in 14 different categories.
Clients: Target, Skyy vodka, Dwell
"The concept of Ubercool is infotainment--to bring back an old cliche. We’re just joining the consumer in what they do."
History: Managed a team of strategists at agency.com in the `90s. Co-founded online Urbanbite, an online food delivery service in U.K., which he sold to European travel firm Lastminute.com in 2001.
Method: 7,000-person trend spotting network spanning 80 countries called Springspotters
Client sample: InterContinental Hotels, Unilever, Coca-Cola
"All marketers need trend spotters. ... Knowing about the wants and needs of a new, highly powerful consumer is as important as knowing about one’s industry."