Summer stories

How communicators should flex their thinking and style in the "silly season"

 

Summer, although doubtlessly the most joyful season, is a strange time to work, particularly in a big city like London.  Men sweat it out in suits, while women have it easy with summer dresses; the tube empties and workers seem to stand around outside the pub all day, making most of us question the kind of job they have.

And on a macro level it is an unusual time for the economy. Fewer people are hired and job moves tend to hold out until the cooler days of autumn.  The youth labour force grows, while output - of those with school age children in particular – dips, as they go on summer holiday. Some people work shorter hours: according to Google Research 25 per cent of small businesses switch to summer hours[1].  A study from the Journal of Retailing & Consumer Services in the US even showed that sunlight has a significant effect on consumers’ willingness to pay for useful products:  on sunny days, consumers would pay on average $1.26 more for a soft drink[2]. This lines up with thinking from other commentators, who stress that in the heat, consumers focus on needs, not wants.

As the economy is changing, and our behaviour is changing, we should reconsider our communications in the following ways:

 

Locating your audience

Target audience shifts: this is a time of year when target audiences really shift: a significant number of FTEs (18yo+) go on vacation, while seasonal workers (16yo+) join the workforce.  Teachers, who get long summer vacations, often switch jobs. School age children are spending more time at home: Divimove, a European MCN, found that YouTube views increase throughout July and August[3]. Summer is a time to rethink how your target audiences are spending their time and where you can most effectively communicate with them

A multiplicity of hooks: summer is crammed with social hooks: sports events, festivals and shows, sit alongside other more obscure and niche activities. At the same time, corporate events and conference go into hiatus. Companies are finding increasingly creative ways to tie their communications efforts to these summer hooks, which tend to be the focus of much of the public’s attention at this time

Segment by climate: most of the impacts listed here will take place in the UK (where the author lives), where the summer is welcomed, and relatively mild.  In hotter climates, including much of the USA, summer temperatures drive consumers indoors, to air-conditioned locations, in particular malls, and can decrease their happiness. In a 2013 study the economist Marie Connolly found that on days when the temperature went over 90, people were more unhappy than those who are widowed or divorced[4]

 

Developing seasonal messaging

Message shorter and sharper: we are more mobile in summer, and less likely to spend hours inside our homes or in other venues reading, messages have to be particularly quick and memorable to be effective

Emphasise life over work: shorter working days alongside longer daylight hours shift much of our focus outside the office, until that “back to school” feeling hits in September.  A 2008 study using data from the American Time Use Survey found that men spent an average of 30 more minutes at work on rainy days than sunny ones[5].  During the summer, people focus more on their personal lives and messaging should reflect this

Think positive and colourful: just as we are brighter in summer, messaging should be too.  Most summer communications are brightly coloured and visually engaging – to compete, yours should be too. And in summer, we are happier, according to the University of Michigan[6] and will respond well to positive messages which reflect our mood

 

Rethinking creativity

Use word of mouth content: where in winter, people are sitting behind a screen, ripe to share vital content, in summer they are often out, talking to other people – communicators need to provide content they can talk about. The 2013 British Summer Time Report found that women, in particular, are more sociable in summer[7]

Get creative, in the outdoors: if you are in the office, you are likely to have more time, but also more energy from the sun.  Harness this combined power to get more creative, driving thinking and campaigns for the remainder of the year and into the next. A study by the University of Michigan found that being outside in enjoyable climates can both improve  your memory and help you flex your ways of thinking[8]

 

 

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