Understanding global economy is a shoe-in according to fashion-conscious IBM

Did you know that the height of a woman’s heels is a reliable indicator of economic prosperity? Neither did I. I’d heard of champagne sales, the availability of London taxi cabs, the length of skirts. I’d even devised my own indicator: counting the number of recruitment advertising pages in Marketing Week during a certain week of January. But this one I had never come across.

What might be dubbed the Jimmy Choo Indicator is brought to us by those clever folk at IBM Global Business Services. Clever because, besides uncovering some heretofore abstruse economic trend data, they have also hit upon a skilful self-promotional ploy, which scores on at least two indices. Not only have they dug up a mediagenic piece of insight (which is after all the business they are in), they have also creatively exploited social media to garner their predictive data. Which should impress clients no end.

Ah, you say sceptically, but isn’t this just a flim-flam gimmick that doesn’t stand up to more rigorous analysis?

I’ll leave you to decide. Here’s more on the inverse correspondence between economic growth and the height of fashion-shoe heels, courtesy of the IBM website:

A look back at the last 100 years of shoe fashion trends reveals that heel heights soared during the most prominent recessions in US history. Low-heeled flapper shoes in the 1920s were replaced with high-heel pumps and platforms during the Great Depression. Platforms were again revived during the 1970s oil crisis, reversing the preference for low-heeled sandals in the late 1960s. And the low, thick heels of the 1990s ‘grunge’ period gave way to ‘Sex and the City’-inspired stilettos following the dotcom bust at the turn of the century.

But what of the future? According to IBM GBS consumer expert Dr Trevor Davis, an analysis of the last four years of social media shows a potential deviation from trend:

Discussions of increasing heel height peaked towards the end of 2009, and declined after that. For example, key trend-watching bloggers between 2008 and 2009 wrote consistently about heels from five to eight inches, but by mid 2011 they were writing about the return of the kitten heel and the perfect flat from Jimmy Choo and Louboutin. This is not to say that the sky-high heels have gone, rather that, as the economic downturn has worn on, they are discussed as glamwear and not for the office or shopping trip.

That’s one way of putting it. Alternatively, fashionistas are just as confused as the rest of us about the direction of the global economy and are simply hedging their bets.

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About Stuart Smith

Stuart Smith is one of the most incisive and knowledgeable commentators on global marketing. He was a long-time editor of Marketing Week during the period when it was the UK's leading marketing, media and advertising specialist publication. Visit Stuart Smith Blog.