Of course, this attempt to brand and own coverage of winter storms is classic marketing one-upsmanship, a move by TWC that doesn't seem to have caught on anywhere else except sister network NBC, in part because its competitors (including apparently the National Weather Service) aren't allowed to use the names (they must be raging with jealousy). Nor has the public embraced the idea, if the snickering comments on The Weather Channel's own web site are any real indicator. But the whole notion fits very well with TWC's overdone approach to branding and packaging our climate, with its contrived weather-driven dramas. But then again, I don't have 24/7 worth of airtime to fill like they do.
To be sure, "Winter weather can bring freezing temperatures, flooding, power outages, travel disruptions and other inconveniences caused by snow and ice storms. These can be life-threatening situations if the proper precautions are not taken in the hours and days leading up to a winter storm's arrival," noted a TWC article bragging about its idea on weather.com in October of last year. That's not news.
Time to fess up. I'm more comfortable with how we used to learn about the weather: on local radio and TV and sometimes even in the newspaper. Back in my childhood, what Channel 22 weatherman John Quill lacked in star power he made up for with forecasts that he mostly got right -- and without any more drama than that provided by the storms themselves. My brother, keeper of family photos, sent me a snapshot this Christmas that showed me and my next youngest brother dwarfed by a 1950s snowfall. I recall how small we felt standing by those looming piles of snow that nearly touched the eaves of our house, a product of our dad's seemingly endless sidewalk shoveling and later our own. We weren't weather weenies in those days. When it snowed, we got commanded out of bed and sent off to school anyway.
As I write, Winter Storm Hercules is doing its best to snarl post-New Years travel in the Northeast, huffing and puffing, blowing the powdery white stuff into prodigious drifts and giving mayors and governors something to bluster about. Damage will be done, perhaps lives even lost. But this winter storm is no different than those in countless years past (although winter seems to have arrived earlier this season and with colder breath). But will naming the thing Hercules increase awareness of the danger inherent in winter storms and motivate more people to take precautions -- that is, over and above normal coverage of a similar unnamed storm? Or will the outright silliness of this idea just get in the way?
Takeaway: If you're going to brand something, make sure people won't end up snickering about it.