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The Sun's Power to Make Us Buy

Like me you have probably just enjoyed the mini heatwave that transformed an English Bank Holiday weekend into a genuinely blissful taste of the climate we wish we had and tend to see in so many ads at this time of year. The hot, dry days probably drove you to do things that you haven’t done since September – tidying up the garden, eating alfresco, spending a few hours sitting outside a pub, exercising in the park and updating your summer capsule wardrobe. As likely as not you spent a little more than usual but you probably did all of this with great pleasure and a sense of optimism for the future.

This reminds us of the powerful effect that the climate has on our behaviour as humans beings and the impact it can have on businesses. For every one of us that was fortunate enough to be enjoying the sun, there were others that were serving, delivering and fulfilling our needs – the cashpoints were busy and the tills and websites were reaping the weather-related sales.

Research from from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows weather conditions influence 30 percent of consumer buying patterns.

According to one study, when temperatures hit about 65 degrees in the U.K., grocery stores see a 22% increase in the sales of carbonated drinks and a 20% decrease in juice sales. In the U.S., a one-degree drop in temperature can trigger sales of soup, oatmeal and lip balm.

The Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services shows that sunlight has a “massive effect” on consumers’ willingness to pay. A study found that on a sunny day people were willing to pay an average of $4.61 for a green tea compared with $3.35 in overcast conditions.

I remember working on a campaign for a beauty brand that knew that sales of sun screen went through the roof when the temperature reached 23 degrees each and every year.

And it is not surprising that travel companies choose to run ads for summer holidays during the darkest period of the Winter when we are most susceptible to the message.

It seems that in spite of urbanisation and the development of technology that can appear to cut us off from our immediate environment, we see that there are some profound and unchanging drivers of our buying behaviour. The people we are all trying to connect with are affected by the sun and the rain and the things with little value one day can suddenly take on immense value when the temperature changes and so that picnic blanket, pair of shorts or fan becomes invaluable. Understanding the psychology of all of this can help us and the brands we work on. So whichever industry you work in, when you next get the chance to pause and bask in the sun why not have a think about the part the weather plays in driving your category and how your brand might get even more value from the sun (or lack of it).

Anthony Donaldson
Executive Planning Director