Sunny, rainy, or cloudy: Study shows how weather impacts response to mobile ads.

Posted on under Today's research

Among the many factors that impact digital marketing and online advertising strategy, a new study in the journal Marketing Science provides insight to a growing trend among firms and big brands—weather-based advertising. According to the study, certain weather conditions drive a higher  response rate to mobile marketing efforts, while the tone of the ad content can either help or hurt the  response rate depending on the current local weather conditions.

As mobile users may have already noticed, many major brands—including Burberry, Ace Hardware, Taco Bell, Delta Airlines, and Farmers Insurance—are currently using weather-based promotions. Indeed, more than 200 other brands have partnered with the Weather Channel to produce targeted advertising and promotions.

The study, examined data gathered from field experiments with two mobile platforms (SMS and APP) on two digital products (video-streaming and e-book reading). Messages about these tow “products” were sent to over six million mobile users in 344 cities. The researchers simultaneously tracked weather conditions across these cities, with a focus on sunny, cloudy and rainy weather.

The authors found that overall, consumer response to mobile promotions was 1.2 times higher and occurred 73 percent faster in sunny weather than in cloudy weather. However, when it rained, that response was .9 times lower and 59 percent slower than when it was just cloudy. Better-than-yesterday weather and better-than-forecast weather engendered more purchase responses. They found that an unexpected change from rainy or cloudy conditions—a sudden burst of sunshine—significantly boosted purchase responses. They also found that, compared with a neutral tone, a negative ad tone can destroy the sunshine effect.

“Obviously, although brand managers cannot control the mother-nature, our findings are non-trivial because they suggest that brands can leverage the relevant, local weather information to enhance mobile promotions,” said the researchers.
“Given that consumers nowadays are inundated with and annoyed by irrelevant ads on their personal mobile devices marketers should take advantage of these findings which give them opportunities for more effective weather-based mobile targeting,” they added.

So what? There is a lot of research indicating that purchasing decisions are mood-directed. We tend to spend on ourselves when we are feeling anxious and depressed and on others when we are optimistic, for example. My guess, then is that when the sun comes out most of the response to ads is self-directed (there is a direct relationship between sunshine and optimistic mood and cloudy or rainy conditions and depression).

Other, unrelated, research shows that people learn more on sunny days and also do better at exams. There is some evidence to show that patients going in for serious operations have a better outcome on sunny days—if they’ve seen some of the sunshine. Good old dopamine again.

What now? We professionals all need to take weather conditions into account when it is necessary to persuade anybody of anything. Take a client to a good lunch (the glutamate effect will open their mind to persuasion after eating), on a sunny day (the mood effect), praise them (the dopamine reward system will work in your favor), be positive (see research above) and tell them how much you value the relationship (the oxytocin reward system effect). Got it?