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Monday, January 25, 2016

In Season and Out

Over the weekend, the weather warnings were ominous. It was said that more than 85 million people in at least 20 states had storm warnings or advisories.

Big Apple residents had forecasts of 18 to 24 inches of snow. Washington DC folk were told to prepare for more than 2 feet of snow. Philadelphia was being blasted as well.

Over 8,000 flights had been cancelled for Friday through Sunday according to FlightAware. Other transportation modes, of course, were impacted as well. Multiply that times the number of passenger life interruptions and these storms wreak havoc on our “plans.”

Having lived in places where a blizzard is not uncommon (Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Montana, and Chicago) I’ve seen how human behavior gets aggressively protective. Customers rush to stores and quickly consume batteries, snow removal equipment, and winter wear. Grocery store shelves can become barren within hours. It’s survival of the fittest—if that means those who jump when fear comes by forecast.

Not all of our planet’s destructive or deeply annoying events can be predicted. Volcanoes. Earthquakes. Tsunamis. Sudden squalls. Directions of tornadoes. Other storms and events we can prepare for.

Beyond our ability to forecast these events, comes the marketing wizardry of our day. Details of how weather changes correlate to predictable human behavior in purchasing made the Washington Post this week. The article is titled, “The weird ways the weather makes you buy things you didn’t plan to.” It’s worth reading in its entirety, but I’ll share some highlights. (

Forget the more obvious for now, the summer and winter purchases like ice cream and warm winter boots. Marketers today with a keen sense of weather buying decisions time their product releases to when you are vulnerable. And what your appetites desire.

From the Post, “Google's data show that Internet searches for pork chops, meatballs, chocolate chip cookies, apple streusel, French toast and other comfort foods spike during the winter and when blizzards occur.” A major soup company uses a weather sensitive “misery index.” When bad weather comes, the soup ads suddenly increase.

Chicago-based McDonald’s has found a way to capitalize. Late last year, the company informed us that their digital menu boards would fluctuate based on the local weather and the time of day. When hot, look for McFlurries. In chillier weather, more heartier meals and hot beverages.

A British supermarket chain has research proving that when outside temps rise from 68 to 75 degrees, hamburger sales increase by 42 percent. Barbecue alert! In those same conditions, “demand for coleslaw also soars, while purchases of green vegetables fall.”

Aside from purchases made, it’s clearly been determined that weather impacts our health and and our moods. Examples cited include the effect on blood pressure, suicide rates, and the ability to concentrate. See? Now you have an excuse!

Of all the twists of weather and business, one particular example stood out to me. A Harvard Business School prof examined a certain Tokyo bank’s productivity over two and a half years. He found that loan applications were processed more efficiently on rainy days than on clear, sunny days. The nice weather apparently caused more “cognitive distractions.”

What was the financial impact? Supposedly over $937,000 in lost revenue per year for the bank. That caused researchers to suggest company headquarters be set up in places with “more miserable weather, or save more difficult work for particularly dismal days.”

Many people complain that a change of barometric pressure is associated with more joint pain. WEB MD concludes there’s “no full agreement among scientists that weather causes pain.” But there seem to be some plausible connections to the weight of the atmosphere around us.

One reason why I believe those of us who live in four season states stay where we are, is because of the weather. We enjoy the gradual warming of spring, the heat of summer, the chill of fall, and beautiful snowy days of winter where trees are blossomed in white. We just don’t care much for the extremes. But if you live in one of these areas, you learn to be prepared for each season.

The Bible has instruction to followers of Jesus on this idea of preparation. The apostle Paul writes to his protegĂ© Timothy, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4, NIV)

What seemed true in that day certainly seems even more true today. The “itching ears” crowd shifts with the times. But sound doctrine gives us stability and an eternal message.

The Gospel needs more than just “fair weathered friends.”

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here

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