Pros On Downturn-Era Digital Marketing: ‘Someone’s Laughing All The Way To The Bank’

From left: Moderator Larry Weintraub of Fanscape; Translation LLC’s Lee “Chappy” Chapman; The Associated Press’ Paul Borgese; JumpTap’s Sean Cowan; and Razorfish’s Shiv Singh being introduced by AgencySpy editor Matt Van Hoven

Last night’s panel discussion, “Digital Marketing in a Downturn,” packed Manhattan’s Tribeca Cinemas with media professionals from all parts of the industry. Interactive and digital marketing strategists shared best (and worst) practices in a recession, and advocated changing your mindset to yield successful solutions. “Digital versus traditional — I don’t think it’s the right question anymore,” said Lee “Chappy” Chapman, director of strategy, branding and consumer markets, for Translation LLC. “We live in a digital world. Our clients are asking for integrated solutions.”

In today’s tumultuous media landscape, brands are faced with what Fanscape CEO and co-founder Larry Weintraub, who moderated the conversation, dubbed a “double trouble spot” — the need to reach customers in new ways, and with limited budgets. Weintraub’s question to the panelists: How can brands act now to get consumers engaged, and how can they use digital marketing to drive their longevity? Shiv Singh, who spearheads social influence marketing at Razorfish, said, “The brand doesn’t control the message anymore. It comes from the community, and it requires a whole new language.”

Part of that language includes jargon for the community itself, Weintraub told attendees — the “gatekeepers” (those who have popular Web sites/blogs); the “influencers” (those within the communities on sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter); and the “individuals,” (solo consumers on message boards, wikis and blog comment areas). Weintraub singled out CEO Tony Hsieh as a master of present-day marketing that has company leaders serving as brand ambassadors who engage directly with consumers, rather than mere figureheads. “I don’t know when he has time to be CEO of the company,” Weintraub quipped in reference to Hsieh’s hands-on approach with Twitter and other social media tools. “User-generated content is the fulcrum that’s binding us. Traditional media is supplemental,” Chapman asserted.

So how are brands harnessing digital platforms to draw consumers? Examples, along with video from the event, after the jump.

Paul Borgese, head of digital initiatives for The Associated Press, expressed disbelief that more marketers weren’t using video content. “Look at Snuggie[‘s video ad campaign],” he said. “You can laugh at that stuff, but someone’s laughing all the way to the bank with that,” Borgese said, recommending that brands take the initial step of taking any video they have for TV and modifying it to run online. Singh concurred, pointing out, “Whether it’s YouTube or Hulu, they are serving as great platforms for building awareness.”

For Sean Cowan, vice president of North American advertising sales at JumpTap, Inc., President Barack Obama’s text messaging campaign during the election exemplifies how digital marketing can succeed. By announcing his VP pick via text message, Obama “took mobile off the back burner,” said Cowan, going as far as to assert, “it probably put him in the White House singlehandedly.” Singh cited the “phenomenal” Whopper Sacrifice campaign, through which Burger King gave coupons to consumers willing to “de-friend” 10 people on Facebook. It worked because the company understood how the platform works, Singh posited — the campaign tapped into inherent social behavior and captivated the entire user base. “The idea of separating the idea from the platform doesn’t work anymore,” he said.