Insights

 

Terry O’Reilly, of CBC’s Under the Influence, hosted a show with what could have been a very boring topic: The weather.

But when you link weather to marketing it gets down right fascinating.

There are some obvious weather marketing activities that have been going on for ages. When it starts to rain in New York City, somehow an army of street vendors instantly appear on every street corner selling umbrellas to those who either didn’t listen to the day’s forecast or chose to ignore it.

One less obvious example O’Reilly reported was for the crafts and hobby retailer, Michael’s. They knew that on rainy days, people prone to crafts were more likely to be engaged in their craft activity on that rainy day rather than on a sunny one. As a result, whenever it rained, Michael’s increased their media buy. It didn’t dramatically affect sales.  Then the light bulb went off in someone’s head: why not increase the media buy a couple of days ahead when there was a forecast of rain (or snow) to come? The result? A dramatic increase in sales. People got their supplies in anticipation of rainy weather rather than trying to get them and getting soaked at the same time.

Weather can affect much more than the sale of umbrellas or snow blowers. What is more powerful is not just the insights to buying habits based on weather but the speed of digital buys based on entities such as the Weather Network with its algorithms linked to media buying services and their algorithms.

Media buying and placement is now instantaneous, at least in the digital world. The advertising agency pulls the trigger at 2:02 PM and at 2:03PM their ad is turning up on someone’s Facebook feed. Or wherever.

Weather affects the sales of many products and businesses. An early, warm, bright sunny day in spring and it’s hard to find a parking spot in a nursery. During a thunderstorm with lightening bursts it’s hard to find a sane person on a golf course.

Weather predicting is one of the most complicated computing functions there is. If you think about conflicting air masses moving in three dimensional space with variables such as temperature, wind, humidity and air pressure and it’s not hard to understand why weather predictions aren’t always 100% accurate. Aviation weather forecasts are every six hours with special reports in between when there is a sudden change and pending hazards to flight. Long range forecasts? For the most part, pilots ignore them.

But weather reports are getting better and many marketers are benefiting from the speed of digital advertising and the accuracy of weather forecasts. If your business is impacted by weather it might be prudent to re-examine how and when you do a weather-related marketing push.

However, with the exception of meteorologists and some marketers, the weather can be an especially tedious conversation topic.

“It’s going to be a hot one today.”

“Sure is.”

It’s an understandable conversation topic because weather is often the only thing strangers have in common.

For the record, meteorologists do not hold a monopoly on weather forecasting. There was a beautiful pink sky this morning and that concerns me. Pink sky at night, a sailor’s delight. Pink sky in the morning and a sailor takes warning. Those high, wispy, pretty clouds (cirrus) you see? They point to good weather but are usually followed by bad weather in a day or two.  Wind from the east? A storm is on the way (in the northern hemisphere). The sky tells us a lot, yet I doubt I could convince advertisers to base media buying simply by staring up to the sky.

I recognize that the weather can be a very boring topic and this article certainly reflects that. My apologies.

But forecasts says the UV index will be high today so I think I’ll go down to the drug store and buy some sun screen.

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