Marketers Battle the Elements on Mobile

Europeans Are Big Users of Weather Apps, Where Brands Should Use Data Creatively

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When you live in a climate like Europe's, where the weather often changes from hour to hour, checking the forecast before setting out or making plans becomes second nature.

Mobile is one of the more obvious sources for weather information, and 58.5% of residents of the U.K, France, Germany, Spain and Italy use weather apps – ahead of both instant messaging (54.4%), and social networking (53.6%), and second only to email (61.5%), according to comScore MobiLens.

But are marketers making the most of the possibilities that meteorological data and GPS offer? John Mew, director of mobile and operations at the Internet Advertising Bureau U.K., thinks not. He said, "Weather affects everything, from your mood to what you buy. It's not used as much as it should or could be."

Mr. Mew said 20 million people look at the weather on their phones every month in the U.K., and in Germany, Facebook posts are 50% more likely to attract comments when it's raining. But marketers, he said, have barely started to explore overlaying weather data on top of other data.

Some brands have a direct connection to the climate and make use of it. Hunter, makers of posh Wellington rubber boots, for example, used weather data in its "Together through any weather" campaign, for which agency We Are Social created a Facebook app. People were invited to upload pictures of the weather in their area, and the best won prizes that matched the weather conditions: Wellington boots when it was raining, or thermal socks during snowfall, for example. The campaign brought Hunter a 20% increase in sales (although the weather itself has to claim some of the credit), and a 12% increase in Facebook fans.

Clem Hancox, group account director on the Hunter account at We Are Social, said, "It can be hard to get good user generated content, but people often take pictures of weather, so we were capitalizing on behavior that already exists. Weather is such a big talking point, so it's a natural area for people to get involved in, and it's a credible area for Hunter to own."

However, We Are Social's research during last summer's heat wave in the U.K. showed that, although sunburn was a popular subject on Twitter, sunscreen brands failed to capitalize on it. Neither Ambré Solaire or Piz Buin has a U.K. Twitter presence, and Nivea and Hawaiian Tropic replied to fans' enquiries, but offered no proactive advice.

The Weather Channel is working hard to improve marketer engagement with the elements, and claims eight million app users. Ross Webster, managing director of The Weather Channel in Europe, Middle East and Africa, said, " Weather and mobile are synonymous – they play into each other so well – and internationally, mobile is our lead medium. Traveling to work, planning what to do with your kids – weather plays very sweetly into that. Retailers have always worked their supply chain around the weather, and now we can work on the demand chain."

The Weather Channel uses a "branded background" format, which allows space for creative executions that are more like those seen in the pages of a magazine than the usual mobile banners. With Burberry, they created a global campaign around the 2012 London Olympics – every app user was served a Burberry ad that reflected the weather conditions in their own location, but with an iconic London landmark as a backdrop.

To promote Despicable Me 2, ads on The Weather Channel app showed the film's Minions behaving appropriately according to local weather – sunbathing, dancing at a festival, or holding up an umbrella, for example. Campaigns for marketers McDonald's, Peugeot, Thomson Holidays and Continental Tyres have all made similar use of local weather conditions.

"Northern Europe has a maritime climate, which means the weather is highly changeable," Mr. Webster said. "There's daily engagement -- you get up and you don't know what the weather is, so you check your app. Weather apps are more popular in Germany, France, U.K. and the Nordics than they are in the Middle East, for example. Although, whatever your thoughts on climate change, the weather is becoming more abnormal – it's something people are more aware of and talk about more."

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