Home Depot Localizes With Spring-Loaded Pitch

Retailer Customizes Its Marketing to Suit Regional Weather Conditions During Biggest Selling Season

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Welcome, spring. It's time to buy seeds, trowels -- and road salt.

With big chunks of the country still experiencing chilly temperatures and, in some cases, snow, this spring is proving to be tricky for Home Depot. The retailer spends roughly 35% of its $450 million annual budget during its biggest and busiest selling season promoting planting products and the like.

Home Depot's Spring Black Friday promotion kicked off in select warm-weather markets.
Home Depot's Spring Black Friday promotion kicked off in select warm-weather markets.

So the home-improvement retailer has been looking for ways to further customize its media plans in the second quarter to allow for seasonal differences around the country.

Print ads are locked in well in advance, but Senior VP-Chief Marketing Officer Trish Mueller said the bulk of its programs can be adjusted within a two-week window if necessary. Not bad considering that the Weather Channel provides 10-day outlooks and Accuweather has a 15-day outlook.

Ms. Mueller declined to offer specifics of the company's proprietary planning tools, though marketers have long used services such as Planalytics, which offer up weather intelligence. Thanks to those tools, spring promotions aren't slated to start in earnest for another week in the Northeast. A good thing, as an unseasonable Nor'easter spurred Winter Storm Warnings in seven Northeast and mid-Atlantic states late last week. Salt will likely be more in demand than gardening tools in that part of the country for at least a while longer.

Home Depot's Spring Black Friday promotion kicked off in select warm-weather markets the weekend of March 18. Three additional weekends of Spring Black Friday deals are rolling out market by market based on climate and geography. The weekend of April 1, media hit the middle of the country and the South, a spokeswoman said.

"We've gotten more precise in what we're doing," Ms. Mueller said. "We're far more tailored and relevant than we were in terms of content a year ago."

The company's "Lawn & Garden Outlook" campaign is an example of that customization. Launched in partnership with the Weather Channel, the program provides hyperlocalized lawn and garden projects, gardening tips and advice via TV, online and mobile. The campaign involves a segment that runs on the Weather Channel between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. It features a weather report, as well as an appearance by a garden specialist or local Home Depot associate. The segment concludes with a tip that then appears in The Weather Channel mobile app.

Home Depot has also begun geo-targeting via its website. On a recent weekend, patio furniture was shown to web users in the South, while kitchen projects were promoted to customers in the North.

Home Depot's social-media team has also become "really astute" at crafting conversations around current trends, she said. Case in point, the retailer's the Apron blog featured a Severe Weather Update, detailing the Nor'easter, as well as a video on proper chainsaw use for consumers dealing with trees downed by spring storms.

"We're much more involved in listening to the customers and having an active dialogue with them than we were in the past," Ms. Mueller said.

Part of that dialogue includes the launch of a QR-code program this spring. The retailer rolled out the codes on a print ad promoting Martha Stewart Living products earlier this month. In tandem, it began circulating a separate code via direct mail as a means of determining engagement with the codes through the two different types of media. When consumers scan the code using a smartphone, they get access to product information and video content featuring Ms. Stewart. The 2-D codes have also been placed on product tags for live plants and patio furniture. Home Depot is working with Scanbuy on the effort. Home Depot's creative agency is Richards Group. Aegis' Carat handles media.

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