Brands need a comprehensive weather strategy, says IBM

Shifting weather patterns can lead to damaging consequences for unprepared brands.

When a pharma company plans to launch a new campaign for its latest allergy medication, one unpredictable force can have an impact on its strategy: pollen count.

Weather can affect brand marketing in a number of surprising ways, but many marketers and agencies don't take that into consideration during their planning processes. 

To some degree almost all brand categories are affected by the weather, either directly via seasonal products or by shifts in consumer behavior as weather goes from cold to warm.

According to Jeremy Hlavacek, head of revenue at IBM Watson Advertising, some of the fastest-growing brand categories in terms of weather strategy adoption are pharma and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies.

"Anything people buy in stores is heavily impacted by the weather," he said. "Another big category is retail due to seasonal clothing and another is restaurants, which might serve a hot chocolate or an iced coffee depending on the weather outside."

There are other examples, of course, including the auto industry, where weather can change how likely shoppers are to come down to the lot, as well as when a brand runs the Christmas ad featuring everyone’s favorite - the gift-wrapped car with the giant bow.

But understanding and accounting for consumer behaviors based on weather will only become more important, as those patterns shift. 

IBM has already seen increased weather volatility, according to Hlavacek. 

"In the world we live in today, you’re gonna be surprised more often by the weather. Across all of the weather data, we’re seeing more volatility. We’re seeing things you may not have anticipated, such as a heatwave or cold snap at times when you may not have expected them. The message for us is preparedness and helping consumers be prepared," he said. 

To that end, IBM has launched weather triggers for search, which will allow users to deploy weather campaigns across social media, Google Search, programmatic, and out-of-home media channels based on pre-existing patterns.

This means that if a specific weather trigger is activated, users' strategies are automatically put into place so that ads for soup start showing up when it's cold out - and not a second before. 

According to Hlavacek, all brands instinctively understand the importance of having a comprehensive weather strategy, but the data that The Weather Company (which was acquired by IBM in 2015) provides has helped them up their game. 

"We’ve brought a much more technical approach to weather targeting," he said. "Here in New York there’s a guy on every corner selling an umbrella when it starts raining, so vendors instinctively know how weather can affect sales."

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