The Importance of Product Placement in Marketing Strategy

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Many companies integrate their products into well-known movies or television shows.
Many companies integrate their products into well-known movies or television shows. (Image: luxury home movie theater image by Nikolay Okhitin from Fotolia.com)

While watching your favorite TV show, you notice your favorite character having a heart-felt conversation over a pint of well-known ice cream. The next scene cuts to the two getting into a trendy sports car. Although the attention of most viewers is focused on the plot line, marketing executives focus entirely on the most opportune moments to have their product shown in scenes.

Reciprocity

A marketing strategy of integrated product placement finds an outlet such as a show, movie or event, and uses this platform to unobtrusively advertise its goods or services. Robert Marich, author of the book, “Marketing to Moviegoers,” explains that Hollywood relies on companies to assist with the marketing and promotion of a film. Thus, if a fast-food outlet gets a plug in a movie, a common expectation is for the fast-food chain to integrate the movie theme into its menu or kids' meal toys. If the event generates a large enough audience, such as those attending a sporting event or watching a popular reality show, companies might enter into million-dollar agreements to endorse their products.

Benefits to Corporations

Product placement allows corporations to issue a ‘soft sell’ to consumers by exerting influence through association. This powerful association between a trusted show or celebrity instills feelings of trust in a name brand or product. Mia de Kuijper, author of “Profit Power Economics,” states in her book that several companies pitched free products to Oprah in hopes of landing on her “favorite things” list, which, when posted on her website, generates 4 million page views a day. A 2002 “Economist” article explains how 16 of the 46 book picks from Oprah’s book club skyrocketed to the "New York Times" best-sellers list. By "cashing in on" a celebrity’s fame, companies gain exposure and recognition.

Benefits to Entertainment Industry

Television shows often benefit from product placement as much as the corporation. Chris Jones and Genevieve Jolliffe explain in their book, “The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook,” that many movie sets and television shows receive free loans from companies for clothing, for instance. In this case, the brand and show receive equal benefits from free promotion. Furthermore, by having food stands or restaurants bearing their products and logos in scenes, companies save movies copious amounts of money in set design. Several war movies, for instance, save billions by receiving equipment, weaponry, tanks and aircraft from the Pentagon.

Considerations

Placing products within a show or movie allows companies to exert subtle influence over consumers in a less obtrusive manner than commercials do. For instance, many people view commercial breaks as an opportunity to make a snack, take a bathroom break or focus on something other than the television. Thus, companies miss out on delivering a message. Product placement, on the other hand, seamlessly integrates the company’s name brand in a manner that appeals to the customer through celebrity endorsement. However, companies should ensure that their products are being portrayed in a flattering way. An alcohol beverage company, for instance, would not want its product shown in a scene where a teenager is stopped by police for drunk driving.

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