Sunny With A Chance of Thunderstorms

Picture Jim: a 44-year-old working professional from Austin, Texas. He and his wife took their daughter Amy, now 10-years-old, and their son Hunter, now 7-years-old, to Disney World in Orlando, FL a few years back. Hunter was a little too young to really remember the trip and Jim never got to play Disney’s Osprey Ridge golf course, but the family had a great time. Jim has been thinking about making fresh vacation plans for a while now, but he just hasn’t been inspired to pull the trigger.

Taking a break from his spreadsheet, Jim clicks over to Facebook and his eyes catch an item in his newsfeed: the forecast for Walt Disney World Resort that reads 88 degrees and sunny, with 5 smiling sun icons running through the end of the week. Accompanying the forecast is an offer. “Returning visitors save 20% on a 4-night stay. Plus, one free greens fee at any Disney golf course.“

The ad knows Jim. It knows he is ready for a vacation. It is enticing without being intrusive and is presented in his newsfeed as information, rather than off to the side as a banner advertisement. And even better, it is automatically generated based on information Jim is already providing Facebook through his wall posts, check-ins, likes, geo-location and more. There is even the ability to market a similar vacation package to Jim’s friends who shares similar characteristics. The ability to personalize these offers are endless. Weather plays a key role in marketing for vacation destinations but an Open Graph application offers similar advantages to a variety of advertisers.

While this story has a happy ending, there are still some storm clouds looming. The Weather Channel expressed to me a hesitation in bundling marketing packages with weather information. Frankly, I see their point.

The Weather Channel is the most trusted name in weather. Mobile TWC apps have been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times on a variety of devices. TWC is seen as the most trusted brand in weather because they offer seamless ways for people to get information about the weather. Cross-branding promotions slow this process down. They have tried and have been unsuccessful. Apparently, Weather users can sniff out an promotion like that a mile away, and they don’t like it.

On the sunny side, Weather really is on the same page as Really Gets Me. They are interested in extracting data from Facebook and Twitter. Improving services/content and general branding are their primary goals. It seems like other companies sometimes get hung-up on the Xs and Os of short term ROI. The Weather Channel is ready and willing (at least to hear our ideas) and has not limited themselves to a narrow view of social media’s potential.

So, here’s the issue: How big do we want to think? Were should we aim on the spectrum of practical/boring to game-changing/pie-in-the-sky?

Encouraging users to connect with Facebook should be a relatively easy proposition. (Still, an important step beyond what TWC has in opperation now.) What to do with this info is the question.

What do you guys say?  How big are ya’ll thinking?




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