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How can advertisers capitalise on the hot weather?

30 Jun 2015  |  Richard Shotton 
How can advertisers capitalise on the hot weather?

As the UK prepares for a mini heatwave, ZenithOptimedia's Richard Shotton looks at the effect hot weather has on people's receptivity to advertising.

Most people in the agency world are enjoying the heatwave. There's nothing like the blazing sun to make lunchtime drinking more socially acceptable.

However, in all the excitement it's easy to forget the impact that weather has on sales. Not just on the obvious categories, like beer and sun-cream, but also on the more unusual ones.

According to Terry O'Reilly, host of the podcast Under the Influence, sales of hair removal products jump with the first warm day as revealing clothes become popular. Counter-intuitively sales of supermarket ice-cream dip once the temperature breaches 25C as shoppers worry it'll melt before they can get it home.

O'Reilly notes that nuanced data analysis is needed to notice some trends as context is important. In Scotland, for example, BBQ sales triple once the temperature goes above 20C whilst in London the threshold is 24C. If marketers just consider the country to be a homogenous block some opportunities will be missed.

The sunny spell isn't just relevant to direct sales though. One of the side-effects of a burst of hot sunny weather is an improvement in the population's mood as the rate of serotonin production, which regulates happiness, is related to sunlight exposure.

The boost to the nation's mood should interest marketers as there's significant evidence that consumers are more receptive to advertising when they're in a good mood. Happy consumers are more optimistic about the benefit they'll get from products and less pessimistic about the opportunity cost of spending money. This can mean consumers are willing to pay higher prices on a hot day.

Kyle Murray, of the University of Alberta, asked two groups of students how much they'd be willing to pay for a selection of items: tea, orange juice, gym memberships, airline tickets and newspaper subscriptions. The participants were questioned either under a sunlight condition, induced via sun lamps, or a non-sunlight one. The students were willing to pay between 21% and 56% more in the sunlight scenario. This work suggests that any brand seeking a premium should consider thermally targeting their campaign.

Weather also influences our attitude to risk. Anna Bassi, from the University of North Carolina, has shown that good weather increases risk tolerance during elections. Optimism, brought on by a sunny polling day, can favour the outsider as voters are more disposed to taking a chance.

This is of direct interest to brands related to risk, such as gambling or insurance, but also to smaller brands who are trying to grow penetration. They should target sunnier days when consumers might gamble on trialling a brand.

But whilst you're mulling over the benefits of a thermally targeted campaign in the pub be careful not to spill your drink on the local psycho. Violent incidents are also positively correlated with hot days.


Richard Shotton is head of insight at ZenithOptimedia

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