October 2020 News You Can Use

In a typical year, now is the crunch time for every business that counts on holiday shopping dollars to boost annual sales. Content creators are pumping out words and illustrations, product manufacturers are cranking up the volume, and every part of the strategic plan is in full swing.

But this isn’t a typical year. And while all those efforts are still underway, a big question hanging in every marketer’s mind is this: How will the coronavirus pandemic affect the 2020 shopping season?

In this issue of NYCU, we have part of the answer. You’ll also find a healthy dose of digital marketing news you don’t want to miss.

  • Will coronavirus kill Black Friday? 
  • Has Facebook Campus access rolled out to your school yet?
  • How crazy can the TikTok story get?
  • What happened to the strawberries on Smucker’s jam?

2020 has proven to be one whirlwind year, and it looks like the surprises aren’t going to stop anytime soon. Digital marketers who hold on, stay focused, and keep learning are positioning themselves to stay in the thick of the action.


Topic: Ecommerce

Key Point: Here is what we know right now about the changes businesses are making in advance of the 2020 holiday shopping season:

  • A Home Depot corporate newsroom announcement says the home improvement giant can be credited with “reinventing Black Friday.” For the 2020 shopping season “Black Friday prices” will be available from early November through December (in stores and online). Other changes include collaborating with Pinterest, offering free shipping on many items (even Christmas trees), and providing Home Depot app users with early bird pricing. 
  • Macy’s says the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade will go on, but all Macy’s stores will be closed on Thanksgiving, and you’ll need to watch the parade from home. Shoppers can find Black Friday deals on the Macy’s website and via the mobile app.
  • Walmart stores are normally packed with eager deal-seekers when doors open after the Thanksgiving Day meal, but this year all locations will close. Walmart corporate says it will ramp up its capabilities by hiring more than 20,000 people to help fill orders, by providing increased availability of leisurewear and other “new normal” in-demand items, and by bolstering safety with reduced store hours and other measures. What about Black Friday deals? As with Home Depot, they’ll be spread “throughout the season.”

Will it work? Will consumers get as excited as always about the season and the bargains? Will the specials really be all that special? Home Depot, Macys, and Walmart think so. And given the situation, it’s probable that many other retailers will follow their lead.

One thing’s for sure: You can’t stop Christmas.


How the pandemic may affect holiday shopping

Unanticipated business victories during the pandemic


Topic: Online Advertising | Social Media

Key Point: Normally, Stukent doesn’t release information that can’t be officially confirmed. We’re going out on a limb here, though, because advertiser experience on Facebook lends credence to the concept. If you’ve ever submitted a Facebook ad, but got it back as “rejected” because there was too much text … then you know exactly how big of a deal this could be.

Here’s what’s up: Word on the street is that advertisers no longer have to worry about the text/graphic ratio on Facebook ads. It’s a story that might bring throngs of graphics artists to tears, but make copywriters jump for joy.

Near as we can tell, the news got traction via a tweet by Matt Navarra. From there, Social Media Today, Search Engine Journal, and others picked up the beat and sent it around the globe. To date, however, there’s been no public acknowledgement by Facebook that the “announcement” is real. 

Navarra says (and we’ve no reason to doubt him) “Facebook ad managers are communicating this news 1:1 with advertisers.” He also points to Facebook for Business and this help page that has recently been edited. Facebook now advises, “We recommend keeping your text short, clear and concise in order to get your message across effectively.” Apparently, though, they’ve stopped penalizing for excess text. 

A post by Jon Loomer provides additional rationale for believing the story is true. He goes on to cover the “Now what?” part of the picture. Writers shouldn’t see this as an invitation to create all-text ads, nor should graphic artists see this as a threat to job security. For both, it’s an invitation to create even more effective Facebook advertisements.


Topic: SEO

Key Point: It’s a topic sure to get a vibrant discussion going at your next marketing team meeting — especially if there are some SEO practitioners in the bunch: Do shared hosting plans come not only with a lower price point, but also with a guaranteed hit on search engine rankings?

Plenty of SEOs say that’s the case. Their rationale is that, because you have no control or say-so over who your “neighbors” are when your site is on a shared hosting plan, you’re subjecting yourself to the same search engine slap-downs as the lowest common denominator using the same server.

True or false?

A “technical SEO experiment” by Oliver Sissons and his Reboot team found that shared hosting “can in fact have a detrimental effect on the organic performance and rankings of a website … the website ends up being hosted alongside lower-quality and potentially spammy ones.” 

But Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, responded via Twitter that websites like the one used in the Reboot study “are pretty much never indicative of any particular effect in normal Google Search. It’s a cool experiment, a good write-up & analysis, and I love it when folks experiment like this, but it’s not useful data.”

So, we still don’t have a definitive answer to the question, but we do have more fuel for the fire of spirited discussion. Can you think of a better way to conduct that same experiment, but in a way John Mueller might find more convincing?


Google’s Mueller on Shared Hosting and Ranking Impact


Topic: Social media

Key Point: Facebook headed back to its roots with the launch of a dedicated section of the Facebook app that’s open to college students only. Users can create a special profile (as opposed to their regular Facebook profile), find out about Groups and Events at their school, and connect with other students on campus.

To get going, check the Facebook News Room to see whether the app has yet rolled out to your school. For concerns about privacy, click here. To watch a promo video, click here. 

Here’s the official word on security from Facebook:

Every Campus profile contains your name, cover photo and profile photo from your Facebook profile, as well as your graduation year. All other fields are optional and you can choose what you want to include. You can choose to delete your Campus profile through Campus settings at any time and your Campus profile will no longer appear in the classmates directory. You can also delete data such as comments in a group, posts, reactions, or an event in your Activity Log.


Facebook Launches ‘Facebook Campus’ to Facilitate Connection Among College Students


Topic: Online advertising

Key Point: Two of the trendiest topics in marketing today are videos and artificial intelligence. So, why not merge the two for synergetic results? Think with Google Canada says there are three get-it-done ways “marketers can apply AI and machine learning features to their YouTube campaigns to help drive full-funnel value.”

Here’s the basic scoop:

  1. Use Google data signals from a variety of sources
  2. Leverage upgraded targeting of your primary audience
  3. Set up similar audience ads to attract more of your best prospects

The information in this Google Canada report is plenty to get you started. 


Topic: Ecommerce


Key Point: If there’s one thing the world could use some more of right now, it’s trust. Smart marketers know it’s not only the environment and the social distancing rules that have changed: The audience has changed too.

Citing stats like “71% of U.S. adults plan to do more than half of their holiday shopping digitally this year,” and “92% [of consumers surveyed] voiced concerns about shopping at websites they haven’t shopped at in the past,” this CXL pre-season article says building trust is especially important this shopping year.

Strategies include transparency about logistics, helping shoppers choose the best gifts, and taking special care to engage socially conscious shoppers. Tack on stellar customer service, paying special attention to security, leveraging trust indicators, and such to make sure you’re ready for the season. 

There may not be a whole lot of new news here, but it’s certainly a timely reminder that some things haven’t changed. And one of the constants is that you’re still selling to people. Many of them just happen to be wearing masks.


Topic: Social media marketing


Key Point: Facebook says the wrapping is coming off their new interface between small business customers and the Facebook/Instagram community. Features include simultaneous posting and a central place to field messages, notifications, and alerts.

The new capability is officially out of beta testing and ready for small businesses globally to leverage this fall. Facebook says the release comes with some good news. First, that “Small businesses making more than 25% of their sales online are more likely to report higher sales than this time last year and less likely to have reduced their number of employees.” And, secondly, that “Nearly half of [consumers] surveyed said they had spent more money online overall since the outbreak, and 40% have increased their use of social media and online messaging for product and business recommendations.”

Eligible businesses will automatically be redirected to Business Suite when visiting business.facebook.com on a desktop computer. If that’s not you, check the Facebook Business Help Center for more information.


Topic: Branding

Key Point: We’re sad to report that an icon in advertising, the J.M. Smucker Company jam label, is switching to a new, more stylized logo. That’s right, the old-fashioned strawberries Smucker’s persona is going the way of the buffalo.

Since its founding in 1897 by Jerome Monroe Smucker, leadership has passed down through five generations to the current CEO. Would the founder be pleased with what great-great-great grandson Mark is doing with the brand? We can only guess.

One thing for sure: Consumers will let the Smucker Company know whether they approve or don’t approve. So, you be the judge. Do you prefer the down-home look of the old Smucker logo here:

Or do you think this updated version of the logo is the very picture of “new and improved”?


Topic: Social media marketing

Key Point: It appears that Oracle won the bidding for the right to operate TikTok in the USA (though that may still be tentative), and TikTok management isn’t wasting any time taking ground. The TikTok for Business Marketing Program launched with a cadre of certified partners (though the identity of those partners is difficult to ascertain), and the (unrevealed) number of predominantly Gen Z users appears to be soaring. Efforts to control the app by federal regulation may be fanning the flame.

Recent news includes artists gaining excellent exposure on TikTok, Oracle under pressure to meet security demands, TikTok deciding it can provide “authoritative information” on the U.S. elections, and users perilously accepting the TikTok “Benadryl challenge” to induce hallucinations. If you’re into high suspense, set a Google alert for TikTok news. 


There’s definitely not a lack of issues to get excited about right now, but the latest dance craze on TikTok, arguing on Facebook about presidential candidates, or hiding under the covers immobilized by the fear of coronavirus probably aren’t the best use of the most valuable commodity any of us possesses: time.

For digital marketers, it’s get up and go get the work done season. For students of digital marketing, it’s dig deep into your coursework and watch the digital marketing action closely. To get real bang for your time investment, get hooked up to a Stukent simulation, and find out what it feels like to be making decisions that can make or break the company bottom line on Black Friday and beyond.

Ready or not … let’s go.


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