How to Use Product Placement: Smarter Advertising

How to use product placement featured
Product placement is a popular strategy, but can small businesses take advantage of it? Image credit: Marek Szturc

Years and years of direct advertising and sales pitches have deterred viewers away from anything labelled as “Ad.” In the skip-ad era, marketers have come up with non-traditional ways of promoting products and brands. Product placement can be the answer to this.

Ways that viewers will not want to run away from. One popular way is, of course, content marketing. This article will highlight another up-to-the-minute marketing technique that contains a lot of entertainment.

Product placement is a marketing technique that has existed for a long time. However, today it’s probably more prevalent than ever. What is product placement? And why is it reaching its peak nowadays?

Let us dive into it.

What Is Product Placement?

Product placement is a marketing technique where companies can promote their products by putting them on display in movies, television, or other media. Of course, companies pay money for that.

It is also known as product embedding. What makes product placement unique is that the products are not really advertised, they just appear in the context of a movie or a series.

When the audience watches the movie, for example, and see the hero using a specific product, they are encouraged to buy the same product. Even if it is merely a banner of the brand or some sort of a tiny reference, it is considered product placement.

Product placement stats
Product placement is now a major industry. Image credit: MarketingWeek

Why Is Product Placement Smart?

With the Hollywood industry growing bigger than ever, more and more brands have realised the potential value of cinema audiences. Yet, brands also realise that if they just place regular commercials within a movie, the audience will either skip them or tune out.

This is where product placement comes in.

On a different note, product placement makes the best use of consumers’ buying behaviour. Due to its strong effect, some may consider product placement to be manipulative or unethical.

However, putting ethics aside, product placement is smart because it aims to influence the audience by targeting three powerful factors: psychology, relevance to reality, and relevance to the storyline.

Psychology

Consumers hate advertisements. However, consumers go to movies or watch series with the opposite attitude. They go because they love watching films.

They love movie stars and look up to them as icons. The audience will not be repelled at all when they see their favourite actors using a specific brand. In fact, they will want to imitate their favourite characters and use the same products they are using in films.

Therefore, it is much easier to convince them by placing products during the movies. By doing so, companies send an indirect message saying “this cool actor is using this product because it is the best, you should buy it.”

This idea works like magic on children and teenagers in particular since they love following the latest trends.

Relevance to Reality

Movies or art productions try to relate to the audience by mimicking their reality. In real life, the audience themselves use the same brands which are displayed on the screen and used by the actors.

Therefore, product placement in movies comes up in the natural context of the plot.

For example, if an actor gets in a Toyota, or if the main character orders a meal from a well-known fast food brand, the audience immediately relates that to a real-life situation that they have experienced themselves.

This has a persuasive influence on viewers since it creates a bond between their reality and the product. They feel that this product on screen is a part of their real life, they connect with it. This surely increases their motive to buy it.

Relevance to the Story Line

This is the most influential scenario for product placement. Relevance to the storyline occurs when the product becomes an effective part of the plot or a motif in the movie.

In that case, the product does not just make a silent appearance, it becomes a product with a background story, and we all know the power of a product with a story. A really nice example is Wilson’s volleyball from the Oscar-winning movie, Cast Away.

After a plane crash, Tom Hanks becomes a lone survivor on a deserted island. Being completely isolated, he finds a company in a volleyball called “Wilson” –similar to the name of the company- and a friendship starts between the ball and Tom Hanks.

Whoever watched the movie got emotionally attached to Wilson and sympathised with it. In that case, the product became a part of the story and this had a huge impact on the audience. Nobody will ever forget Wilson.

Famous Product Placement in Movies

Product placement started in the form of direct sponsorship, then it developed to being embedded within shows. Of course, sponsorship still exists.

Reese’s Pieces and E.T The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

In Steven Spielberg’s classic Sci-Fi film, one of the most interesting product placements took place.

Back in 1982 product placement was not the mega-hit it is right now. Spielberg made an offer to M&M’s to appear as the candy used in the movie by the alien called E. Unfortunately for them, they turned it down.

Their competitor, Hershey, seized the opportunity and showed off their product Reese’s Pieces without paying a penny! They did promote the movie for a million dollars though. Incredibly, their sales increased by sixty-five percent!

M&M’s must be still kicking themselves.

Reeses pieces in ET
ET put Reesese's Pieces on the map. Image credit: Ytimg.

The Future of Product Placement

Product embedding is now extended to music videos and social media. Particularly, pop music videos include many product placements.

In 2010, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé’s nine-minute video “Telephone” had a lot of promotion including Coca-Cola, Virgin Mobile, and Polaroid. When social media marketing took over recently, product placement followed.

Influencer marketing resembles product embedding to a great scale. Influencers are people on social media who have a large number of followers. They are like small celebrities.

Nowadays, many companies pay social media influencers to wear or use their products as a sort of product promotion. This is considered product placement, too.

How to Create an Influencer Strategy

Like traditional product placement, influencer marketing is all about paying to access an existing audience. This is a great way to build your brand quickly. You can also find a range of different influencers to suit different budgets.

This is a key advantage of working with influencers for your product placement strategy. The vast majority of businesses can’t afford to insert their products into movies or TV shows.

Here are the things you’ll need to keep in mind when engaging influencers for product placement.

Influencer marketing stats
Influencer marketing is exploding in popularity. Image credit: HostPapa

Your Budget and Payment Options

The first thing to consider is how much you want to spend. Afterall, the whole point of influencer marketing is that it’s a cost effective way to reach a new audience. However, it’s also worth keeping in mind that you’re introducing an unknown quantity into your marketing.

That is, an influencer is really an external contractor.

This means that the results you can expect are going to be more unpredictable than your other marketing efforts.

As such, it’s often a good idea to begin with a smaller test budget when you first work with a new influencer. This might mean working for a short period of time, or on a limited campaign in order to receive a form of proof of concept.

Additionally, it’s worth considering how you’ll pay your influencers. For example, will they charge you a flat fee per post, or will you give them a cut of any sales that they drive?

Audience

Next, you’ll need to assess the audience of the influencers you’re considering. There are two key variables here:

  1. The size of the audience,
  2. How suitable it is for your brand.

For example, many fashion bloggers have millions of followers, but that’s not going to be much use to you if you run a construction business.

As such, it’s usually a good idea to seek out influencers who specifically work in your industry, and then choose the ones in your budget with the strongest audience numbers.

Influencer Performance Metrics

Finally, you’ll need an idea of how you’re going to measure the success of your influencer strategy. That is, it’s crucial that you can justify the expense of working with an influencer. Usually, this means increased revenue.

You should set KPIs for influences that you work with, including:

  • Revenue,
  • New customers,
  • Customer retention,
  • Repeat customers.

Product Placement: Key Takeaways

Most marketing strategies and techniques are now including less “selling” and more “influence.” The new school aims to approach consumers differently. Product placement is surely one technique which follows the new rule of marketing and advertising.

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