Naming Snowstorms: How Much Longer Until They’re Corporate Branded?
So now we’re naming snowstorms? Really? Thumbs down to The Weather Channel for the nonsense. Or, if you’re really into marketing and think it’s brilliant that a TV station devoted to the weather has now turned snowstorms into branded Media Events, thumbs up.
The National Hurricane Center has been naming hurricanes since the early 1950s. Why? According to USA Today, “Before they started naming storms, hurricane forecasters had to refer to storms by saying something like, ‘the storm 500 miles east-southeast of Miami.’ But six hours later the storm’s position would change. When more than one storm was going on at the same time, making it clear which storm was being described made the job even harder.”
In other words, hurricanes were given names to better inform the public about hurricane threats. Since the National Hurricane Center is a public agency dedicated to public safety during dangerous storms, this makes sense.
Fast forward to 2012. The Weather Channel decides it’s time to start naming snowstorms too. This decision did not come from a government agency dedicated to public safety. It came from a TV network dedicated to ratings. And you know what boosts ratings? Dramatizing snow storms by turning them into branded events with lots of flashy and ominous graphics.
The Weather Channel claims this decision is in the public interest. According to their website, “Naming winter storms will raise the awareness of the public, which will lead to more pro-active efforts to plan ahead, resulting in less impact and inconvenience overall.”
Oh, really? If your power goes out for five days because of a massive snowstorm, you’re going to be less impacted because the storm has a name? If you lose control of your car and slam into a median on an icy road, you’re going to be less injured because the storm has a name?
Clearly, though, The Weather Channel is missing out on an opportunity to maximize the branding of storms. Here’s the list of names set aside for 2012-2013 storms:
Now, for the time being, we’ll give The Weather Channel the benefit of the doubt that the biggest storm of the year is named after a Disney character. To date, Disney does not yet control the weather. But Winter Storm Nemo really makes me wonder: why not give companies like Disney the opportunity to purchase storm names? They do it with stadiums and skyscrapers all the time. Think of the product placement possibilities:
- A: Winter Storm AT&T
- B: Hurricane Boeing
- C: Tropical Storm Chrysler
- D: Earthquake Doritos
- E: Tornado Ecolab (but only because Enron doesn’t exist anymore)
- F: Thunderstorm Fed-Ex
- G: Spring Shower General Motors
- H: Fog Halliburton
I think the only reason this hasn’t happened already is that weather events are seen as negative things, and corporations might hesitate before placing their name on one. But if you look at all the air time these storms get on TV — especially in the age of climate change — and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if one day soon, we’ll be seeing Hurricane Verizon and Winter Storm WalMart.