North Thinking
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North Thinking


A monthly look at the world of digital from NORTH’s point of view

Small Business Saturday Expands to Every Day
By Caroline Desmond, (soon to be former) Director of Media

Image Source:

For my final Digital Digest post, let’s talk business — small business. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, social conversations are increasingly rallying behind small businesses who have been hit hardest by social distancing restrictions and shelter-in-place orders. Indeed, a study of hashtag usage in the US and Canada spanning May 1 through May 19th reveals that people are nearly as likely to tag posts with #ShopLocal, #EatLocal, and #Local as they are to post content tagged #Stayhome. This shows that although consumers are still wary of going back to normal too soon, they are thinking about how they can begin to support local businesses again now that some restrictions are starting to lift.

Image Source: Mintel

In this climate, national brands have an opportunity to leverage paid social channels to make meaningful connections with consumers and simultaneously rally behind local businesses. Brands who are already doing this well include Heinz, Chase Bank, and Amex. The paid social campaigns currently live for these brands work because they do one, or some combination of, the following things:

1)Lean into a true connection between the brand and related local businesses. For example, Heinz ketchup has long been a staple on tabletops in local diners. In recognition of this, and knowing that local diners are hurting amidst nationwide closures, Heinz launched a paid Facebook campaign that encourages people to nominate their favorite local diner to receive financial support from Heinz.

Image Source: Mintel

2) Incorporate trending hashtags that relate to current consumer sentiments. Brands like Chase and Amex are tapping into the cultural zeitgeist by incorporating hashtags like #StayHome, #EatLocal, #ShopSmall, or #StandWithDiners in their paid social posts.

Image Source: Mintel

3) Invite participation. Chase encouraged viewers to screenshot and share the pledge on the last frame of their Instagram Stories promising to “#StayHome, order in and #EatLocal.” With this call to action, Chase positioned their campaign to achieve earned reach above and beyond paid impressions.

Image Source: Mintel

Notably, not all of these campaigns required the paid media placements to be locally targeted. Heinz is proof that you can have a locally relatable message that runs nationally. The Heinz #StandWithDiners campaign was able to target a national audience by referring generally to local diners while inviting the viewer to comment on specific local dining spots. Thus, the message still felt relevant to each local community, and at the same time, Heinz likely achieved some efficiencies in their media buy by allowing Facebook to run ads nationally. By allowing Facebook’s algorithm to optimize to more engaged markets, Heinz was more likely to achieve efficient performance within their spend. Whereas, a locally targeted campaign with preselected markets would not have had the flexibility to shift budgets to different markets if those in the target market set performed less efficiently.

In sum, this is one of those cultural moments ripe for connection between brands and consumers and national versus local brands. Brands that do it well stand to support local communities while building on long-term relationships with consumers.

Content Meets Commerce
By Nicole Bell, (new) Director of Media

Image Source: AdWeek

It is fitting that my first Digital Digest post will cover two of my favorite things, food and Pinterest. Earlier this year, Madelyn wrote about Pinterest expanding its capabilities to focus on e-commerce. Just before the coronavirus pandemic, the company launched a new technology that allows users to grocery shop on the site.

I like to call Pinterest the sleeping giant of social media. It packs quite a powerful punch for brands with about 90% of users using the platform to make purchase decisions. In Q1 of this year, its revenue increased to 35% to $272 million. As a result of the outbreak, eMarketer found that Pinterest is more popular than TikTok and Snapchat.

The pandemic also played a role in the influx of online grocery shopping. About half of U.S adults have either started buying groceries online or are buying more groceries. Combine Pinterest’s newfound popularity with the increase in online grocery shopping and the company has created a seamless experience for consumers.

The user experience is no different than any other advertisement on Pinterest. The shoppable ad will be a promoted pin amongst content the user is searching for. The image for the pin will have a call-to-action (CTA) of “add recipe to cart.”

Image Source: AdWeek

Once the user clicks on the pin, they are taken to a third-party website to add the ingredients to their basket.

Image Source: AdWeek

What I love about this new capability is that it creates an easy experience for the user. There is a shift happening in the way we shop. If we’re shopping online, we want it to be easy. Instagram has made all of its posts shoppable, making it so that users never have to leave the app if they want to make a purchase. TikTok is starting to dabble in this as well. Users don’t want their experience to be disrupted, they want it to be frictionless.

Brands Lean Into Audio Marketing
By Izzy Kramer, Media Planner

Image Source: Pexels

Consumer media behaviors have changed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. More than before, they are relying on audio media — streaming radio/music and podcasts — to pass the time, help focus, or simply to improve their mood. Neilsen is estimating 8 in 10 Americans are spending either the same amount of time or more with audio media and they have deemed audio as a “comfort food” during quarantine.

From a Pandora user study “88% of people reported that music improves their mood, 89% said music relaxes them, 85% said music makes them happy, and 74% said music motivates them.” So, it is no wonder people have turned to music during this difficult time. Marketing Land reports that “iHeartRadio digital listeners grew by 21% at home. Broken down, the increases were 30% among the top 3 smart home speaker listeners (Alexa, Google Home, and Sonos), 20% for those listening via the web, and 23% listening through smart TVs.”

For brands interested in reaching users in top-indexing music genres and playlists, it is important to consider how staying at home has shifted music preferences. “As increased domesticity becomes the norm, we’re seeing an increase in cooking and housework playlists, as well as children’s music, and a move away from music intended for group celebrations and work” as Marketing Land puts it.

In addition to streaming radio and music, podcasts are another outlet consumers have turned to. Podcasts were experiencing a major growth spurt even before the Coronavirus pandemic. However, with the increased hours spent at home and consumers desperate to connect with others, the growth of podcasts has accelerated. As Marketing Land reports “the industry saw the highest number of downloads within a five-day period in mid-March. Listeners have shifted categories and are spending more time with news programs, resulting in a 30% increase in downloads. Contrary to typical podcast listening trends, a majority of podcast listening is now occurring throughout the day instead of primarily during commuting hours.” Consumers are seeking connection with their favorite podcast hosts. When they run out of episodes they branch out to discover new podcasts.

Similar to streaming radio and audio, it is important to consider the types of podcast genres consumers have turned to in the wake of quarantine. Consumers are focusing more of “their podcast listening time on self-improvement and spirituality.” Over the past few months, messages relating to self-care and mental health have been promoted more and more in the efforts to help each other through this difficult time. Self-improvement and spiritual/meditation podcasts prove to be an easily accessible, free medium.

Audio marketing offers an engaging and adaptable environment for advertisers to reach their target audience. Marketing Land offers a few tips to help marketers making a transition to audio advertising:

  • Seek additional forms of human connection. Prioritize audio inventory within content that has on-air personalities to reach consumers who are engaged and seeking connection and comfort.
  • Develop an audio content strategy that demonstrates awareness and sensitivity of the current climate and consumer mindset. Consider switching up your digital audio context to include more types of channels — i.e., calming channels, meditations, work from home playlists, and children’s music.
  • Offer consumers value as they look to escape and unplug. Be willing to try new targeting strategies while also being agile with messaging against the current environment.

Facebook Announces “Shops,” a New Online Storefront Offering
By Madelyn Engel, Performance Marketing Manager

Image Source: Facebook

For years, Facebook has been dipping its toes in eCommerce through increased shopping capabilities for ads, Instagram Checkout, and releasing product drop features for large brands. Now Facebook has just released its newest offering, “Shops,” which is available on both Facebook and Instagram. This offering allows businesses to create online store fronts, and effectively closes the circle between brand engagement and purchase, all without leaving the app.

Ecommerce sales have been steadily rising over the last few years and have made significant gains in the last 3 years. According to Oberlo In 2017, online sales accounted for 10.4% of retail sales, but today that number has climbed to 16.1%, an increase of 54.8% in only three years. This growth is expected to continue growing and is projected to hit 22% by 2023.

The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has further accelerated the growth of eCommerce, and it is expected that these new shopping habits are here to stay. According to Warc, 11 out of 12 markets surveyed said they were more frequently purchasing products online that they would normally buy in-store. More than 20% of the US population that was surveyed had shifted their buying habits to online compared to the previous month.

Image Source: WARC

Many are anticipating a shift in advertising dollars to channels that facilitate the path to purchase. Indeed, here at North we have already seen clients begin to prioritize channels that can utilize past purchaser data and lead to direct sales. Thus, the new Shops feature on Facebook and Instagram comes at an opportune time and allows businesses to effectively close the loop between brand engagement and direct purchases, all without leaving the app.

Facebook explains, “Facebook Shops makes it easy for businesses to set up a single online store for customers to access on both Facebook and Instagram … This means any seller, no matter their size or budget, can bring their business online and connect with customers wherever and whenever it’s convenient for them … People can find Facebook Shops on a business’ Facebook Page or Instagram profile, or discover them through stories or ads. From there, you can browse the full collection, save products you’re interested in and place an order — either on the business’ website or without leaving the app if the business has enabled checkout in the US.”

Brands will be able to customize the look and feel of their shop as well as choose products to add to their catalog through the Shop Builder platform, an extension of your existing Facebook Page tools.

Image Source: Social Media Today

These Facebook Shops will be incorporated into a variety of Facebook’s current offerings, including:

Messenger or Instagram Direct: Customer’s will be able to message businesses from their shop listings to ask questions and even make purchases from within a messenger stream.

Image Source: Social Media Today

Live Videos: Brands can tag products from their Shop or catalogue before going live. These tags will be shown at the bottom of the video so people can tap to learn more or purchase. This will allow users to purchase products in real time while engaging with Brands and Influencers.

Image Source: Social Media Today

Discovery pages: Instagram is adding a new “Shop” section to their Explore pages to boost product discovery. This will allow users to browse products from their favorite brands and influencers.

Image Source: Social Media Today

Facebook will be making Shops available to more and more businesses over the next couple months. Between the increase of online shopping and the increased support for small businesses suffering due to COVID-19, I expect these Shops to take off quicker than Facebook’s past offerings, especially as cities across the country struggle to reopen safely.




A collection of articles from North.

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North is an independent advertising agency in beautiful Portland, Oregon that creates fans for brands and good companies who give a little more than they take.

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