In a Cookieless World, Weather Data Can Forge a Connection Between Marketers and Consumers

For most of us, the global pandemic has led to a significant—though not surprising—increase in concerns regarding our personal health and wellness.

According to a recent study by the National Research Group, 88% of consumers surveyed say they’re actively working on a way to improve their lives. The IBM Institute of Business Value reported that 70% of Americans who participated in its study stated Covid-19 has made them more concerned about the safety and health of themselves and their families.

The new challenges of personalized marketing

Health-minded marketers are responding to this uptick in health and wellness interest with targeted campaigns and messaging to key consumers. But 2020 has brought unique challenges in identifying these key consumers and pinpointing the most relevant moment for a brand’s message.

Covid-19 isn’t the only factor causing disruption and uncertainty in health and wellness. Climate change can impact allergy symptoms in unpredictable ways. For instance, warmer temperatures and higher levels of carbon dioxide are likely causing plants to produce more pollen for longer periods of time. Pollen also may be growing more potent, meaning that consumers could potentially experience more severe allergy symptoms.1, 2

The disruption also is occurring in marketing processes as the industry eliminates the use of cookies and other personally identifiable information (PII). While this movement toward protecting privacy is supported and applauded, it does create obvious barriers to delivering personalized and timely messages.

In response, brands must find new strategies for effectively connecting with audiences in contextually relevant moments through digital advertising.

Using weather data and AI to connect with consumers

Few factors are as inextricably linked to health as the weather, which can impact everything from cold and flu to allergies, mental wellness and self-care routines, such as getting outside to exercise.

For many, the weather has become more than an interest. According to the IBM Watson Advertising “Covid-19 and User Behavior Study,” 68% of consumers surveyed say weather data is important for planning their day since the pandemic started.3 In a follow-up study conducted by IBM Watson Advertising, participants were asked whether they currently use weather forecasts to help manage at least one health condition. Of those surveyed, 84% replied “Yes” on average, a growth of 7% since 2019. In particular, Generation Z demonstrated a growth of 19% since 2019.4

This increased use of weather data for health-related purposes presents a tremendous opportunity. Enhanced forecast data and sophisticated geo-targeted weather platforms can help brand marketers anticipate and connect with health-minded consumers by sending pertinent messages during consumer decision-making moments, all without using historical marketing models, cookies or PII.

For example, IBM Watson Advertising Weather Targeting combines data on the weather’s ability to impact emotions and action with IBM’s AI knowledge to help brands enhance message relevance and resonance. Weather Targeting leverages AI to recognize the relationships between weather, location, and complex data sets—such as health conditions, product sales, and consumer activity—without the need for cookies or other identifiers. The solution triggers ads only when conditions are present that will lead to specific consumer mindsets, needs and behaviors. These triggers are available for targeting based on various weather and public health conditions, including the rise and fall of Covid-19 cases in a specific ZIP code.

Similarly, Flu Insights with Watson in partnership with CVS is a feature in The Weather Channel app that provides consumers across the country with information to help them prepare for flu season. The feature uses AI to process weather data, anonymized health information and other inputs to notify users of the flu risk in their area up to 15 days in advance. The partnership helps CVS demonstrate that it is a trusted partner in health by alerting communities with the right message, at the right time, and reminding users to prioritize vaccinations and other proactive measures to help stay well during flu season.

In a cookieless world, in which consumers are equally conscious about health and protecting their personal information, marketers must discover new, privacy-first data sources to deliver targeted ad experiences and prepare for a new digital economy with AI as the backbone. Weather data can be a valuable option to help anticipate consumer behavior, drive contextual relevance and effectively connect with your audience during such unpredictable times. 

1. Penn Medicine, “Is Climate Change Making the Allergy Season Worse?”

2. EPA, “Climate Change Indicators: Ragweed Pollen Season.”

3. IBM Watson Advertising, “Covid-19 and TWC User Behavior Study.” March 2020 – April 2020.

4. IBM Watson Advertising, “AI Health and Weather Impact Study.” August 2020.