Storm clouds over wheat field

Harnessing the Marketing Power of Weather

Talking about the weather doesn’t have to be limited to the idle chatter with acquaintances on that elevator ride anymore. Today, it’s also a powerful marketing tool. Thanks to big data, machine learning and more than 75 years of climate data, marketers have at their fingertips powerful insights to create marketing strategy based not only on weather events where their customers are but also targeted to their propensity to purchase.

Marketers know that weather has an undeniable impact on consumer purchase behavior, affecting a wide range of categories. The extremes or even abnormalities of our climatic elements can spell new promotion opportunities. With weather insights, you can inform marketing teams and craft content that is relatable and actionable. Understanding how and when weather impacts your buyer’s mood provides you the opportunity to engage with them when they are at the “I want to know” and “I want to buy” stages.

Understanding mood and appreciating context

A consumer’s frame of mind and his/her spending habits are influenced by many weather factors – from air temperature to relative humidity to sunlight. In fact, a 2010 study by economist Kyle B. Murray revealed that exposure to sunlight can increase consumption and our likelihood to spend. Understanding weather-created mood changes can help marketers plan and implement more successful campaigns.

It’s no surprise that sales of convertible cars increase with warm, sunny weather. However, studies have also shown that during the same climate conditions, consumers feel better about themselves and are willing to pay more for even standard goods. Example: Shoppers will pay 37 percent more for green tea and 56 percent more for gym memberships after being exposed to sunlight. On the other hand, during dreary, cold or stormy weather days, buyers are more reluctant to make a purchase. They look for discounts or great deals to help lift their mood.

Data tracking and predictive technology allow marketers to determine the effects of weather on many products we consume every day and to market accordingly. Data from Google shows that Internet searches for “comfort foods” spike during the winter and when blizzards occur. Campbell Soup Company is one of many to capitalize on this trend, tracking when winter weather turns ugly in U.S. cities and cueing up advertisements in those markets.

Optimal results come when marketers show appreciation of the weather context and prompt the desired response. Master marketer Starbucks targets digital ads based on current weather signals, aligning content and weather conditions with messages such as “It’s a warm one today! Come in and cool off with Starbucks.” Another example comes from Pantene, which targets its anti-frizzing hair products to consumers in areas where humidity is peaking and its volumizing hair products in drier areas.

Imagine the power of adding weather triggers to B2B marketing strategies. In agribusiness, a market where we have several clients, marketers target campaigns to a region by linking content and online conversations with all-important weather events, from heavy rains to drought. In the pet care arena, predictive weather platforms now provide marketers with the ability to reach pet owners in areas where the weather conditions are right for an outbreak of ticks or fleas.

Being in the weather moment

Targeting by seasons and the unpredictable weather that comes with them is probably the easiest way to use weather for marketing. Before and during major weather events, you can use location-based campaigns to offer branded or unbranded solutions. Promotional deals and discount offers during periods of inclement weather could generate the most engagement and achieve the largest reach on social networks. By identifying critical, emotional micro-moments, marketers can deliver messages to their customers when they are in the “I want to know” moment.

Similarly, email campaigns sent during weather events have a 2.5 times greater open rate than traditional email campaigns. A change in seasons and weather extremes associated with them influence purchase behavior and are perhaps the easiest way to use weather for targeting. Clothing company Timberland does this, using three-day forecasts for rain as a trigger for email campaigns for its weatherproof line of products.

By researching and preparing content that speaks to an audience’s challenges and curiosities, brands can put themselves in front of an audience in the moment. Umbrellas when it rains and ice cream when it’s warm are the most obvious examples, but there are many other products and services whose sales are affected by the weather. GlaxoSmithKline partnered with the Weather Company to launch an allergy tracker that shows a three-day outlook for levels of pollen and mold in the air, and places timely advertisements for its allergy medicine Flonase for affected areas.

Getting social

A more mobile society – and a society connected by social media – brings challenges and opportunities. During bad weather, consumers are more engaged on social media and marketers can take advantage of this receptive audience by interacting with them. Research shows that average engagement on Facebook is up 42 percent when the sun is not shining, according to a University of California/Facebook study.

In the summer months, traditional media consumption takes a dip, making it difficult for marketers to reach consumer audiences. But mobile marketing and social media open up new opportunities. Facebook is perfect for marketers to continue sharing meaningful content and experiences with consumers as they share their summers online. Lipton (the iced tea people) capitalized on this with a Facebook mobile ad campaign aimed at 18- to 24-year-olds. Its thermo-activated mobile campaign served up digital ads triggered by warmer temperatures and was supported on Facebook with a photo and video contest. The campaign ultimately reached 6.9 million people and attained a nearly 13 percent view rate.

It’s all about being in the moment with your customer. Just remember, an inch of snow in Minneapolis or Boston is a lot different than a similar amount of snow in Atlanta or Memphis. Also, attempting to capitalize on a catastrophic weather event such as a tornado or hurricane will likely backfire and lead to an unwanted brand crisis.

Today, “How ’bout this weather?” now means a lot more than idle conversation. Weather has a deep-rooted effect on buyer psychology and purchase behavior. By cross-referencing point-of-sale data with historical weather information, brands can gain a deep understanding of these nuanced relationships. Then, with these insights, marketers can implement a weather-responsive marketing campaign to deliver more targeted and impactful promotions.