CMO Talks: Solutions Brands with David Jaye of The Weather Company

In our second of two talks with David Jaye, the Chief Marketing Officer of The Weather Company, Brian Regienczuk, Agency Spotter’s CEO, talks solutions brands and about the big data IoT (Internet of Things) opportunity with IBM.

Part 2: A conversation with David Jaye, CMO of The Weather Company, An IBM Brand

Watch Part 1: Agency Partnerships

Intro: David Jaye has held Senior Marketing roles at agencies like Digitas, Wunderman, and OgilvyOne. He has served as the head of creative agency partnerships at Google, and currently he overseas marketing and creative expression for the world’s largest private weather enterprise, delivering more the 30 billion individual forecasts daily to 2.2 billion locations. With the top app on all major mobile platforms globally, and the 7th most data rich website in the world. I’m happy to have David Jaye, CMO of The Weather Company.

Brian: How has your perspective changed now that The Weather Company is owned by IBM?

David: It’s awesome because when you take a look at what we do and you take a look at why IBM bought us, you realize what the ambition is.

There’s a big B2B side of our business and because weather affects every single industry. It’s a nice layering onto all of the ERP and other types of services, cloud and analytics services that IBM is looking to extend out. It’s a very pragmatic way for them to extend that out from an industry standpoint.

On the other side of it, you have the B2C side, which is our apps and our websites. On any given month, we hit 155 million people. That’s equivalent to almost half the U.S. population. Because of that, we have the ability to provide people better ultimate decision-making capabilities.

An example is I wake up in the morning, I’m actually trying to figure out what to wear. I’m not necessarily interested in what exactly the weather is intellectually. It’s more I’m trying to figure out pragmatically how do I need to answer that particular question, and then it’s, “Well, if it’s going to be sunny now, what do my kids need and will they have football practice?”

It becomes a causal relationship between a succession of questions that you have to answer. What’s amazing about that is as IBM has moved into the analytics space where they’re really looking at creating insights for industries to be able to provide that to their end customers, to be able to use that in how those industries are building out both their systems as well as their strategies.

When you start looking at what weather and things like Watson and analytics can start to do together, you start to realize that, that really is probably one of the most exciting things that has certainly happened, I think, to IBM in quite a long time. More importantly, I think industry-wide, it really is a perfect combination of differentiation at scale.

Brian: Can you tell me a little bit more about [solution brands] and maybe even give us some examples?

David: I think it’s very difficult for brands today to stand for an aspirational message alone. I think car companies have commoditized that. What I mean by an aspirational message is take our product and it’s a gateway to a lifestyle change. I think the brands that break through are the brands that actually solve a problem.

What I look at is I’m looking at our brand and saying, “What’s the purpose of our brand?”

When I talk about a solution brand, the purpose of our brand isn’t to provide you the most accurate weather. Yes, that’s a function of it. The purpose of our brand is to give you the ability to make the best decision you can possibly make that’s weather related.

I think when you start to look out there, you start to see the brands have started to move away from that aspirational and have started to move into what I’m referring to as purpose built. There’s a reason they exist in your life. Nike is no longer about just do it. Nike is about doing it.

Nike stands for running. The purpose in it in my life is to help me run.

I think that what you’ll find more and more, and we see this more attitudinally with millennials and anyone that we’ve seen coming up, is this whole notion of what’s the purpose of your brand in my life. When I talk about solutions brands, these are brands that solve problems. What we have to do as marketers is tell those stories around how our products solve those problems and do it in a context in which it’s magnified.

I think Nike is. I think you look at Under Armour. I think you look at a lot of the apparel brands that are starting to add technology into their actual products. Instead of thinking about style, they’re thinking about function. Well, when did that ever happen, like in retail fashion?

I think the challenge for marketers are being able to tell those stories in various formats and in very fragmented ways, and that’s a constant challenge.

Brian: What do you think the future of weather becomes with the internet of things, with big data? Are there any things that you’re seeing with this change that you’d like to talk about?

David: For me, the reason why I came to The Weather Company was because of weather. From a single day-to-day standpoint, there is no variable that probably impacts your day more than weather in almost every decision you’re going to make. Weather impacts you both rationally and also emotionally.

The challenge for a company like ourselves is how do we not become a commodity.

Part of the thing that we’ve been looking at is we have Weather Underground, which is a network of personal weather stations, which are weather stations that people put up that have a certain quality to them that can provide into our forecasting super-hyperlocal forecasting.

I think on the Internet of Things, I think there’s a big move to make forecasting more and more hyperlocal. If it’s raining on the South side of Chicago, the North side knows it’s sunny. Okay? That’s where you start getting into microclimates.

How does weather move from being a proxy to being an additive component in the decision I want to make and how does that become a service.

What we look at is how do we take weather and provide it as an additive component, as part of an overarching solution to the question you are looking to ask. I think for us, it’s about how does weather move from just being a destination and something you actively have to go and get to being implicitly baked into your life in a way in which decisions you don’t need to make are made or are, at least, presented to you in a way in which they’re already considered in. If you want to go deeper, you could say, “Okay. Well, how sunny is it going to be?” You could put in things like, “I’m going to go to the beach.” That means, “You know what? Bring your sunscreen because the UV’s going to be acting out.” Those are the types of additive decision layering we look at providing to extend beyond the commodity. Then there’s also just simply accuracy, and that’s where the hyperlocal comes in.

Brian: Sure. Sure. Awesome. That’s fantastic. How is it being a CMO?

David: Huh, I don’t know. What does a CMO do? For us, we tend to look at it a bit as an art and a science.

A lot of it is where do we spend our money and how do we best use it and how do we best map that to the goals of the company and the audience goals and a number of other key metrics. Where we start is we always establish baseline. What’s our cost for acquisition? Then everything else flows from there.

If we do any brand activity, it should impact our cost per acquisition. We look at it as a, this is our baseline and then what are we doing along the way that’s evolving that baseline ultimately.

When you look at my team’s configuration, you look at what we do with partners, everything is focused in on that. It is really focused in on how do we create the best messaging to the optimal audience that consumes in a way that pays our bills but also make sure that it’s building equity, that’s building to a larger relationship.

I think for The Weather Company, that’s our big challenge. That’s the thing that we’re really focused on, how do we begin using IBM and the services that we can extend to begin really claiming our rightful place as one of the world’s largest location decision engines. And, not do it because we’re saying it, but doing it. Because, we’re helping people by solving really simple things smartly.

Brian: There’s many brand leaders, and even people on the agency side who aspire to become the head of marketing at a company. Do you have any advice for them?

David: The thing that I would say is, if you view your job as a job, you only succeed so far. If you view marketing as a craft, it’s what propels you forward. The difference between the two to me is a craft is something you’re constantly open to the fact you don’t know everything.

It’s okay to say, “I don’t know that. You need to recommend for me what works best there.” I think people who look at a job, they’re afraid of admitting what they potentially don’t know. I think that’s a challenge.

If you look at it as a craft, it really becomes a learning platform.

I think the other thing is making sure you’re staying very focused. When you look at innovation, don’t chase the thing, like make it fold into what your overarching strategy is. I think, again, that’s part of the craft because as a craft, you’re looking to build things that exist beyond your existence.

If you have that aspiration and you have that desire and you have that approach, it can be extremely, extremely beneficial in not just how you grow, whether it’s to be head of marketing. It’s really in anything that you look to do.

About Brian Regienczuk

Brian Regienczuk is the CEO and Co-Founder of Agency Spotter. With over 19 years experience both at top brands and helping grow agencies, Brian writes and speaks on topics related to finding and selecting great marketing, design and research partners, and on how the future of marketing demands that brand marketers and agencies work smarter together.