We have all heard stories about how weather affects our mood. As someone who wishes to move to the Promised Land (Southern California) and who hails from sunny Lebanon but who has resided in cold and dark Montreal, I am only too well aware of this reality. The link between weather and mood can in some instances result in a clinical condition known as seasonal affective disorder, typically treated by exposure to artificial light sources. Of relevance to consumer behavior, researchers have found that mood can have a profound effect on a wide-range of consumption-related phenomena (e.g., how we respond to ads, and how we process product information). Accordingly since weather affects mood, and mood affects consumption, does weather affect consumption? Kyle B. Murray, Fabrizio Di Muro, Adam Finn, and Peter Popkowski Leszczyc have a paper under review at the Journal of Marketing Research that precisely seeks to explore this causal relationship. Incidentally, several years ago, in one of my undergraduate classes of Consumer Behavior, a group of students had tackled this exact problem and had obtained some interesting albeit preliminary findings.

Returning to the Kyle et al. paper, in my opinion, the power of their study rests in their having tested the postulated link between sunlight, negative affect, and consumer spending using three different types of methodologies. In study 1, they collected daily sales records for a six-year period from a tea store along with the corresponding daily weather reports. These included variables such as temperature, rainfall, snowfall, dry bulb, humidity, wind direction and wind speed, barometric pressure, and sunlight. In study 2, 33 participants were asked to keep a daily diary of specific consumption behaviors (e.g., their purchases of tea and coffee) as well as their moods for twenty consecutive days. Daily weather data included temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, and number of hours of sunshine. In study 3, 78 participants were asked to provide willingness-to-pay (WTP) responses for specific quantities of five products (tea, orange juice, fitness club membership, airline ticket, newspaper subscription), either in a room containing a sun lamp or in one missing such a light source. Additionally, their moods were assessed using the PANAS mood scale.

Here are some of the key findings especially as relating to exposure to sunlight/sun lamp: (1) When the temperature was low, sunlight yielded an increase in retail sales (study 1); (2) Sunlight caused a reduction in negative affect and a corresponding increase in consumer spending (study 2); and finally (3) exposure to sun lamps yielded an increase in WTP for all five products, with negative affect serving as a mediator of this effect.

Bottom line: My moving to Southern California might make me poorer (by virtue of my increased spending due to a greater exposure to sunlight) but it will make me happier via a reduction of my negative affect! In the immortal words of Tony! Toni! Toné! : It Never Rains in Southern California...

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