Why weather is an ‘easy win’ for marketers

The weather has been “undersold” as an ad targeting method, but it is set to grow in popularity among marketers in 2014 as marketers strive for more contextual relevance in their ads and more tools to link weather forecasting with their own data become available.

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Experts predict weather targeting will improve in 2014 as location targeting did in 2013.

There have already been plenty of examples of brands using the weather to their advantage in advertising campaigns with brands from all sectors, including Nokia, Costa Coffee and Stella Cidre all trialling weather-sensitive outdoor ads in recent months.

Including the weather in ad creative does appear to resonate with consumers. French mail order fashion retailer La Redoute last year created a “weather forecast billboard”, which displayed real-time weather information alongside appropriate clothing – a t-shirt for sunny conditions and scarf and hats for colder temperatures, for example. Online traffic increased 34 per cent and sales grew by 17 per cent in the time the campaign ran.

Think lifestyles, not just umbrellas

While this may seem a rudimentary example, Anthony Mullen, a senior analyst at Forrester serving marketing leadership professionals, told marketers at a breakfast event held by The Weather Channel in London last month that marketers can also take advantage of the fact that the weather sets people’s emotional tone.

La Redoute
La Redoute’s real-time weather billboard displayed different parts of the catalogue depending on the outside weather conditions.

He displayed a study from The Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services that showed sunlight has a “massive effect” on consumers’ willingness to pay. The study found that on a sunny day consumers were willing to pay $4.61 on average for a green tea, for example, compared with $3.35 in overcast conditions.

Mullen said at the event the use of weather data by marketers will mature in 2014 as location data did last year – particularly as the EU Data Protection Directive is scheduled to be implemented by 2015.  While consumers are becoming more aware and even nervous about the amount of data they share about themselves with companies, they are more comfortable sharing information about the current weather conditions affecting them, he said. 

Also at the event, Tom Jenen, head of marketplace engagement development at Google, said consumers appreciate when marketers acknowledge their current weather conditions: “People want an immersive experience [in advertising]…so you must make sure you are creating an experience they can really get into and something that speaks to them. 

“Weather is so hyperlocal you can accomplish that. Weather is one of those things where you can show the usefulness of the product advertised. [Weather] ads are relevant and helpful.”

The UK is ‘30 years behind the US’ when it comes to weather, but it doesn’t have to be

Ross Webster, EMEA managing director of the Weather Channel, told Marketing Week after the event that the UK is “far behind” the US in this area, where marketers have been linking marketing creative to the weather for more than 30 years.

He added: “The limitations before may have been because people were only thinking about this on an ad hoc basis and looking at rudimentary triggers – “if the temperature is 1 degree hotter, then X”, not intelligent ones. 

“What we are offering is more intelligence behind that to make it much more impactful and you will see a lot more products come to market [helping marketers understand the impact of the weather on their consumers] this year.”

Both the Weather Channel and Met Office are working to refine their forecasting capabilities to become more accurate and are also offering APIs and tools such as the Met Office’s online system Weather Windows which makes it easier for marketers to plan accurate multi-channel weather dependent campaigns.

UK marketers even have an advantage over their US counterparts in this area because the weather changes on a more constant basis and people here talk about it more, according to Terry Makewell, head of digital and global media at the Met Office.

The text in this Nokia outdoor ad changed depending on the outside temperature.

He told Marketing Week: “The weather can be such an easy win, it’s a no brainer really. And while any marketer can get a forecast, what we can offer is the analysis and we will be offering more information, running more events and producing more publicity about our products in 2014.”

The first steps a marketer should take

Both Makewell and Webster advised the more contextual weather information marketers put in their ad units, the better the results.

But the first step marketers should take is to research their business’ sensitivity to weather, according to Forrester’s Mullen.

He added: “The temptation is to go to a variety of paid marketing and advertising outlets and say ‘do something magical’ but it’s a competency you need to have inhouse. It’s dangerous when you abdicate these things to an external business [because you need control].

“Populate your footfall and POS data and advertising with a large library of weather. Look at how temperature will affect the sale of hot meals if you’re a retailer – it can be gold dust in terms of insight.”

He then advises marketers should “rearchitect and annotate” their product catalogues or services with a “richer weather taxonomy” which will not only help them be more successful with current customers in certain weather conditions, but possibly help draw new customers into the business too because their brand may be more easily searchable.



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