Snowstorms weren’t always news. But with record low temps and snow blasting most of the Northeast and Midwest, news outlets couldn’t resist making the snowstorm a major news story. As cities braced for between 5-20 inches and sub-zero temperatures, The Weather Channel decided to brand the storm. Its name? Hercules.
The reaction to The Weather Channel’s effort has been mixed. Some people thought the branding of the storm was harmless fun. Others thought it was frivolous and just goes to show that even the weather isn’t immune from sensationalized news stories. Hurricanes and tropical storms have names, but snowstorms, now that’s a new one.
The Weather Channel is insisting that naming the storm is basically a public service. Naming the weather system and then tweeting about it with a hashtag raises awareness and makes it easier to get info about the storm, the network argues.
Bryan Norcross, senior executive director of weather content and presentation for The Weather Channel, says the naming of the storm “Focus[es] the communications in a natural kind of way people are used to – the names for the hurricanes work perfectly for Twitter.”
Of course, most anything can be branded and made a hashtag. And, this isn’t even the first time for a snowstorm. In the early months of 2010, a record-setting snowstorm was dubbed “snowmaggedon” and shared across social media. Then, in October 2011, The Weather Channel inspired a new hashtag for a freak snowstorm, #snowtober. So, while naming the storm Hercules might seem a bit out of the blue, it’s actually been a long time coming.
But despite The Weather Channel’s arguments in favor of naming the storm, people can’t help but call foul. When The Weather Channel wrote a post explaining the storm names, one commentator called it “the most asinine, self-serving thing TWC has ever done.” Even author Stephen King got in on the conversation, tweeting, “Naming winter storms: dorky, or just me? I mean—Hercules! Get serious.”
But love the naming or hate it, The Weather Channel has been successful in the past. In January 2012, they named a winter storm #Nemo. The hashtag received 1.1 million tweets and 1.2 billion gross impressions total. Not bad at all, especially when you consider that The Weather Channel made up the name and pushed it out without help from any other meteorological organizations.
Hercules, however, hasn’t had quite as strong a showing yet. Over the past two days, 67,000 tweets mentioned “Hercules.” But, a new movie named The Legend of Hercules hits theaters on January 10 and it’s being heavily promoted. There’s a good chance some of those tweets were mentioning the movie, not the storm name.
Meanwhile, The Weather Channel has only been mentioned in tweets 1,500 times alongside #Hercules. Last year, the organization was mentioned 19,000 times over three days with the hashtag #Nemo.
But, if you’re more concerned with quality over quantity, Hercules might be doing better than we think. New Jersey governor Chris Christie used the hashtag, as did publishers like Vanity Fair, The New York Post, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Daily Beast.
We’ll be watching to see if the name #Hercules catches on like #Nemo did!