Imagine this scenario.
Two attorneys are chatting against the beautiful tropical backdrop of the Cayman Islands. The elder lawyer suggests to the young rising star that he “grab a Red Stripe,” which leads to the selection of the Jamaican-brewed beer from an ice-cold fridge.
So simple … but it’s a powerful association between the “good life” and a particular brand of beer. Did it work?
Within a month, sales of Red Stripe in the United States increased by over 50%. Within a few weeks of that, the company collected a $62 million payday by selling a majority interest in the brewery to Guinness.
That would be a pretty effective commercial, if it was one. After all, who can afford Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman for a beer commercial?
The scene I described is from the film The Firm, an adaptation of the John Grisham novel of the same name. This was not a commercial, but an example of product placement, and a highly effective one at that.
Clearly, American consumers have been hoodwinked into buying expensive Jamaican beer against their will! Except the science indicates that’s absolutely not true.
Early studies on product integration in entertainment media from the 1990s found that the majority of people are not deceived by the practice, and do not find it objectionable. In fact, compared to being interrupted by a “commercial,” people preferred product integration in content.
Recent studies confirm the earlier findings, but go a step further in favor of the practice. Consumers see product integration as providing more authentic narratives, compared to the former practice of generic props for soda, beer, sneakers, and what have you.
Product integration is just one example of a subset in the bigger picture here. Taking a media approach — compared to traditional marketing and advertising — is more influential and effective, not because it tricks anyone, but because it gives people what they want in a format that they prefer.
Head over to iTunes to hear the latest from New Rainmaker, and discover the 8 primary ways that digital media is more influential than straight up marketing. In this 17-minute episode you’ll discover:
- The neuroscience behind one of the most powerful influencers
- The evil Megamind trick to getting your message heard
- How two brands increased sales by over 50% with smart media plays
- The psychological basis of how things spread through social media
- Why people prefer product placements in entertainment media
- How media influences behavior in ways that marketing can’t
- The two keys to building likability for your brand
- Why teachers can become powerful business builders
Listen to New Rainmaker Episode No. 6 here.
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Reader Comments (14)
Katherine James says
Interesting read. Where do you see more traditional forms of advertising heading towards, in the future?
Specifically, I am referring to things like billboard advertising, prime-TV hour advertising (I know that newspaper advertising has already started to move into the online only arena)…
I’m no expert Katherine but I believe it will always exist, I just see it transforming in a way in which it supports the online marketing strategy as opposed to the online strategy supporting the other mediums.
Clara Mathews says
What do you think of the recent product placement success with Samsumg at the Oscars? Ellen made it look seamless, but it makes me wonder if the big celebrity selfie was planned as a marketing gimmick.
Either way it worked.
Brian Clark says
It was planned.
Jerod Morris says
“While the stunt felt spontaneous, it wasn’t entirely unplanned. As part of its sponsorship and ad pact for the Oscars with ABC, the TV network airing the show, Samsung and its media buying firm Starcom MediaVest negotiated to have its Galaxy smartphone integrated into the show, according to two people familiar with the matter.”
Justin West says
Of course, sometimes product placement is SO ridiculous that it is beyond distracting!
E.g., This Cheerios Placement on a popular soap opera! (I couldn’t even remember the Soap’s name, but I remember seeing this clip a while back, and it sure did stick with me (but not, perhaps, how they intended!)
Brian Clark says
True. The research shows it’s when the placement is inherent to the narrative while also creating an intended association that things work out the best for both consumers and companies.
@Justin Its really strange when people try to do crazy and ridiculous kind of acts just to promote a foolish product sometimes…
And yes i agree with Brian… — You Marketing geek — :-p
Kaloyan Banev says
Well, there are pros and cons. It is like to watch your favorite TV series and to wait 15 minutes commercial in the middle. Majority of people are simply hangout with their friends and never click Facebook ads. On the other hand keeping existing customers informed all the time and being social with them is a great weapon as powerful as a newsletter.
A Morris says
Interesting, although tangible, traditional marketing will still be effective. 3D printed marketing, for instance, could be an unique hit. The Hobbit recently ran an idea for a 3D printed bit of merchandise. LEGO are following suit.
Probably won’t be as effective as Ellen’s Selfie, though.
Luigi Pignalosa says
Congratulations Brian for this interesting article. Above all it is very useful for those who, like me, try every day to convince customers of this centrality of the content within the overall marketing strategy of a company.
I am a free lance which in Italy is desperately trying to make people understand the value of a copywriter who points to the quality and not the quantity, but it’s not easy. I will post your article to my customers more willing.
It depends on the format. The BBC was famously anti-product placement (most famously making the lead singer of the Kinks have to do a quick trip to New York and back to replace the line ‘Coca Cola’ with ‘cherry cola’ in Lola or else they wouldn’t play the song), but has recently opened it up, which is leading to jarringly new product placement in shows such as Jonathan Creek and Call the Midwife.
Brian Clark says
It’s not the format, it’s the execution. All this tells me is that the BBC is bad at it.
Lori Sailiata says
Yes, very effective. But it does make me nostalgic for the cleverness that can be had with fake products. I think of Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, and more recently Garrison Keillor with his Catsup Advisory Board and Beebop-a-Reebop Rhubarb Pies.
And of course, cartoons! Some real inventiveness with their fake products that in many cases were then transformed into real products. Cocoa Pebbles, anyone?
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