The impact of social media on trend spotting has become an essential part of marketing efforts by companies of all shapes and sizes around the world.Case in point is a fascinating announcement fromIBM on November 17 regarding a computer-based analysis of billions of social media posts that predicts an unusual change on the horizon in women’s shoe fashions. The results indicate that the current fad for higher and higher heels is about to decline.
IBM (News - Alert) initiated the project to showcase the predictive capabilities of social media since research has shown that only a small number of corporate executives use blogs and other forms of social media when making strategic marketing decisions.
On the relatively whimsical side, Dr. Trevor Davis, a consumer products expert with IBM Global Business Services is quoted in the press release on this as saying, “Usually, in an economic downturn, heels go up and stay up – as consumers turn to more flamboyant fashions as a means of fantasy and escape…This time, something different is happening -- perhaps a mood of long term austerity is evolving among consumers sparking a desire to reduce ostentation in everyday settings.” However, more seriously, if in fact heel size is a leading indicator of a new era of austerity this is valuable information that can be correlated with other retailing trends that can help marketing executives adjust accordingly.
The release goes into quite a bit of detail on the entire history of heel height and what changes in height have meant in terms of discerning overall mass market buying behavior. While interesting, it only serves to amplify the point that marketers now have a rich source of information they can mine to proactively address changing market conditions. And, although the collection and analysis of social media postings are obviously skewed because of the distribution and intensity of people who are active users of the media, the ability to collect hundreds of millions of observations and apply sophisticated analytics to them cannot and should not be underestimated.
I am not sure what to do first, find the right style and best price for the new pair of penny loafers I need or tweet about what I am looking for so somebody, somewhere sees that penny loafers could be coming back as a dominant fashion choice for men and might expand the selections. Think I will do both and in rapid fire.
Peter Bernstein is a technology industry veteran, having worked in multiple capacities with several of the industry's biggest brands, including Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent, Telcordia, HP, Siemens, Nortel, France Telecom (News - Alert), and others, and having served on the Advisory Boards of 15 technology startups. To read more of Peter's work, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Rich Steeves