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BizReport : Trends & Ideas : January 15, 2013

IBM predicts birth of a trend - steampunk

Retailers are constantly on the lookout for the 'next big thing' and, according to IBM, it's becoming easier for these trends to be spotted way before markets become saturated thanks to the use of social and sentiment analysis. IBM thinks it knows what the next big trend will be - Steampunk.

by Helen Leggatt

ibm-steampunk.jpgUsing advanced analytics to listen to online chatter, IBM has been able to track the spread of trends across countries, time and now, cultures. This is done via the IBM Social Sentiment Index which, says the company's website, can "aggregate and gauge public opinion from a range of social media" and can "distinguish between sarcasm and sincerity, and applies machine learning to identify which social media commentary is important--and which is just background noise."

Using sentiment analysis, IBM are able to create real-time public opinion snapshots to identify trends and gauge how consumers feel about a variety of topics.

In recent analysis, IBM has found steampunk becoming a cultural 'meme' having leapt across 'cultural domains' including fiction, visual arts and fashion.

Steampunk itself isn't new and already has a loyal and creative following. In its basic sense, Steampunk is a design aesthetic, a mash-up of mostly-Victorian fashion with futuristic technology, the paranormal, industrial machinery and sometimes a touch of Goth.

Anything can be steampunked - transport, telephones, watches, jewellery, clothing, computers, décor - think polished brass, steam-power, glass, engraving, copper cogs, pocket-watches, corsets and monocles. Think Jules Verne, H G Wells and Nikola Tesla.

So, why does IBM believe steampunk is about to become a big trend? Some of the most interesting points of analysis may be helpful:

- 33% of online fashion chatter around steampunk can be found on gaming sites;

- 2010 saw a year on year increase in chatter of 296%. This increase can be attributed to steampunk-inspired NYC ComicCon events in October of 2010;

- Twitter is the #1 social network for steampunk chatter; hosts six times the number of discussions as Facebook;

- 63% of fashion discussions around steampunk are initiated by individuals less than 30 years old;

- 55% of social sentiment chatter for steampunk fashion derived by blogs.

"By staying ahead of a trend as it develops, a retailer can more effectively control critical merchandising, inventory and planning decisions," says Trevor Davis, Consumer Products Expert with IBM's Global Business Services. "Technology can provide tremendous foresight to help businesses differentiate what is a fleeting fad, versus what is an enduring trend."

It could also be said that these predictions could become self-fulfilling with retailers jumping on the latest trend early and pushing it in front of consumers.

Tags: fashion industry, sentiment analysis, social analysis, steampunk, trend analysis, trends

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