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How Weather Data Can Build a Real-Time Media Plan

Rain or Snow or Sleet (or Shine) Can Be a Benefit Rather Than an Excuse

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Credit: Bloomberg

Weather has set the tone for first quarter earnings with a majority of companies citing extreme conditions -- namely the polar vortex -- as one of the reasons for poor earnings results.

This is not a surprise. History proves, just as logic suggests, that people will not take test drives, buy movie tickets, or in some cases even leave their houses when there are two feet of snow on the ground or an inch of ice on the roads. They will, however, load up on firewood, bottled water and order videos on demand.

Very simply, weather affects many categories and many brands, from automotive and chemical to health and wellness and quick-serve restaurants.

Given patterns over the most recent years, the only thing we can accurately predict is that extreme weather will continue to be prevalent and unpredictable. So, how can companies and industries hedge their bets against this financial uncertainty?

They can quantify how historical weather events affected their business both positively and negatively, and be prepared to adjust media investments to take advantage of this relationship. In short, double down when conditions are perfect, and pull back when they are not. These near real-time adjustments could make the difference between a good quarter and a bad quarter.

Data is our most powerful ally in marketing. By looking at weather data, we can predict people's behavior -- when they go out, where they go, what they eat and what they buy. The great news is that most categories have both good and bad weather conditions and these conditions can be predicted, with accuracy 10 days out.

For example, we can identify the optimal weather conditions that motivate consumers to take a test drive or buy a movie ticket. Armed with that information we can look at weather forecasts and identify geographies, below the DMA where these conditions will be present and throttle up or down our media depending on the relationship.

3 Steps to Building a Weather Based Strategy:

Always be ready: Identify ahead of time the patterns and events that affect consumer behavior related to your brand, both positive and negative. Use this set of conditions to filter for data analysis on a daily or regular basis to make decisions on content, conversation and media placement. Ensure your marketing plan includes hyper-local areas that influence sales.

Be budget-flexible: Make sure you've given your media agency flexibility in budget and scale to make real-time shifts in media allocation. Clear the approval path ahead of time to ensure the agency and brand teams can act quickly on opportunities.

Be data-dogged: Learn, optimize and improve. The more you adjust your campaigns and conversations, the more data you are collecting. The more you are learning to hone your social content and media placement. The more you make changes that positively impact your business.

It's not always the big advertising splash that gives business the edge over the competition, or keeps an earnings quarter from becoming poor. It's the day-to-day incremental adjustments that create organizational change and sustainable growth.

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