The question of product placement and its storytelling context has been in my mind for quite sometime. We have seen good product placement like FEDEX in Castaway and also the worst kinds (I just don’t want to name them). So I’m putting down my thoughts on how the context which forms the story around the brand which is being placed plays an important role in helping consumers make an impression image of a brand.

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According to Wikipedia

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Product placement, or embedded marketing, is a type of advertising, in which promotional advertisements are placed by marketers using real commercial products and services in media, where the presence of a particular brand is the result of an economic exchange. It is also known as product integration, especially when the product becomes integral to the plot. When a product is not part of an economic exchange, it is called a product plug.

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From the above, what’s noteworthy is the integration of the brand/product with the plot/context. This is the uniqueness of product placement. And if the brand/product placement doesn’t fit with the overall story or plot of the context then it is a sheer failure – failure of the brand to nudge any sort of expectations from the consumer starting from remembering it or associating it with anything. It’s complete faux pas.

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This is what happened to Ford when they chose to market themselves through popular American reality show called American Idol – according to this article (subscriber link) from Advertising Age. Infact, brands like Coca-Cola, AT&T did quite well in the reality show. But Ford failed miserably. One of the reasons was the out of context relevance of Ford to the reality show which got them erased from people’s memory.

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If we think about the true essense of product placement in real life situation, then I think we are completely hard-wired to remember stories. Stories that makes sense to us – that adds value to our lives. So how well a brand/product fits into the “story” of the location (viz. a movie theater, airport, railway station, a social networking site etc), the more positive association people will have with the product.

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So some of the things to be remembered before thinking about “Product Placement” are:

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1. Visual Proposition: This is one of the most important aspect of product placement. We can’t have a high involvement product marketed to consumers when they have less time to interact with the brand. E.g. I don’t think putting ads of high-end technology gizmos during movie breaks is a good idea.

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2. Value Proposition: I’ve always believed one simple thing as a Marketer. Always value your customers time and their attention. So marketers should think of adding value when the product is being marketed.

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3. Image Proposition: Every brand carries an image. It may or may not be same with every consumer but surely the overall brand image is nearly same. So before sticking that lowsy ad as hoarding/billboard on the side-aways, we should take notice of the image being reflected to our targeted consumers.

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These are few things which can help a brand during product placement. So have you recently come across ads which was totally inappropriate in the specific location. Definitely some food for thought!

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