How Product Managers can use weather to shape a product’s success or failure



This post was originally published as a LinkedIn post on Oct 31, 2017. The original can be viewed here


All product managers should have, in my opinion, international experience. Or any lived experience in a foreign, unfamiliar setting for an extended period of time that is as different from western civilisation as night is from day.

Pursuing high quality international experiences is one reason I chose the Schulich MBA program to develop and strengthen my product management skills.

Schulich’s MBA Exchange program gave me the lived experiences I needed to analyze a product from perspectives I never would have thought of had I never left the comfortable shores of North America. It’s only by living in India, an emerging nation with a population of 1bn, more than 22 languages, and several thousand distinct and unique cultures of religions and communities that I gained crucial insights and perspectives on how products can succeed or fail.

One of these insights is how weather plays a role in determining a product’s success. Here are some examples:

Heat and Humidity Implications

The average temperature for India, hovering between 22.3°C and 26°C year round, has strategic product implications that Product Managers must consider.

When I was living in India, I discovered one day that the discounted chocolate bars I purchased off of a store shelf had all melted. I realized that in many stores, chocolates are placed not on store shelves but inside refrigerated cabinets right beside cold drinks to keep them from melting. During product shipping, refrigerated trucks are often used to keep the chocolates from melting. 

Bread and other perishable foodstuffs are another example of how weather plays a role in a product's success. 

The high heat and humidity increases spoilage rates and possibly affects taste. Product managers have to decide to whether to use refrigerated trucks or move and build manufacturing facilities closer to markets(to reduce shipping time). Inventory costs can also rise due to the energy costs of keeping raw materials and finished goods cold 24/7 to prevent spoilage.

For healthcare product managers, vaccines and pharmaceuticals often need to be kept within a strict temperature range at all times to maintain effectiveness, potency, and safety. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to maintain control of products once it leaves the manufacturer’s hands. During shipping and distribution, the product can change hands many times and not everyone may strictly adhere to temperature control protocols. As such, the effectiveness and potency of vaccines may be reduced, destroyed, or potentially rendered dangerous to use.

Cold Weather Implications

When I was living in Nunavut, Canada for 2 years where temperatures regularly plunged below -60°C, I discovered that extreme cold affects products in ways I never thought possible.

For example, the plastic insulating the wires in many electronic devices became brittle and cracked easily as did the rubber O-rings and seals in devices like outdoor camping stoves. The air filters in cars also stopped working as effectively.

While on a week-long winter camping trip, I made the chilling discovery that a small yet crucial rubber seal on my camping stove had frozen solid rendering the entire stove inoperable. 

I hope that these examples help shine a light into how something as innocuous as weather can significantly influence a product's success.