What is Product Placement?

By on May 20, 2014

product placementAlso known as embedded marketing, product placement is a marketing and advertising tactic whereby a product and/or its functionalities are communicated to the target audience using a ‘by the way’ approach. This marketing practice is neither new nor rare. Especially in this day and age where every commercial phenomenon has a brand image and communicates a brand message, product placement has become a frequent and rampant occurrence. The trend is stronger than ever and it shows no sign of becoming obsolete anytime soon. Owing to the widespread instances of product placement around us, most of us have a fairly clear idea of what it is all about. However, a ‘fairly clear idea’ is not enough if you are into marketing. So, let’s dig deeper, shall we?

What Is Product Placement?

When a branded product is shown in a movie or a show by way of being used or as part of the background props, it is called product placement. In this marketing strategy, the brand is communicated in an indirect way insomuch as the audio-visual communication of which it forms a part is not a direct advertisement of that particular product. The central theme of the show does not revolve around the embedded product but the product or the brand may play a part in the flow of such a show’s plot or narrative. Such a part may be active as well as passive. In an active role, the embedded product is shown to be used by one or more characters in the show, thereby showcasing its utility and features.

Technology brands are a good example of active product placement, where they may be shown being used by the main characters. In a passive role, the brand or the product may just be displayed in the background. Highbrow fashion, lifestyle, and luxury brands are a good example of passive product placement, where they may just be displayed in the background while the main characters go about their business. Most of the time, manufacturers or marketers pay to place their products in movies, soap operas, and similar shows.

The Pros and Cons of Product Placement as a Marketing Strategy

As covertly clever as it sounds, product placement as a marketing strategy is not bereft of its high points and weaknesses. Let’s take a look at some generic pros and cons of this marketing strategy.

Pros:

  • The foremost advantage of embedding a product directly in a movie or a show is that it saves its brand communication from being avoided or ignored by the viewer. When a product is made a part of a movie or a soap opera episode, its brand message cannot be avoided by switching channels. This is where product placement scores over advertisement.
  • Owing to being exposed to a product’s brand message for a longer time and seeing it being used (often), the viewers are likely to get a better understanding of its features. This ensures a better and longer recall of the product attributes and the brand message.
  • Product placement can be a cost effective option, since a marketer can ensure that the product communication does not escape the viewers’ attention. This way, marketers can expect more value for the money that they invest in such an embedded marketing exercise.

Cons:

  • The biggest disadvantage of product placement is the possibility of cultural rejection. In today’s global age where entertainment transcends the barrier of language, movies and shows in one language are available in many regions of the world that speak different languages, thanks to dubbing and subtitles. In such a scenario, cross cultural perception and understanding of a product or a brand’s image and marketing communication must be kept in mind. Cross cultural acceptance of a product or a brand must be given a lot of thought before embedding it in a popular show or movie franchise which has a global or multicultural audience.
  • Another down point of product placement is the possibility of overdoing it. Seeing a particular product or brand too frequently in a show is very annoying and the audience catches on to the marketer’s trick soon enough. The whole point of product placement is to draw the viewers’ attention to a product in a subtle, inconspicuous manner. Overdo it and it becomes as good as an advertisement that the audience is forced to watch. You cannot force your brand message upon the viewers by sticking it out like a sore thumb now, can you?

There is a lot more to product placement than what we discussed above. Consider it an elaborate introduction to the topic. Product placement is a complex process that involves a lot of in-depth research and intricate analysis of the target audience and their preferred entertainment media. While a lot of times product placement is cost effectives, there are instances where it costs a fortune and then, there are instances where the manufacturer never paid a single penny to place their product in some of the most popular shows and movie franchises. I will be back with detailed discussions on these areas and lots of popular examples soon. Till then, watch this space!

About Ishani Chatterjee

Ishani is a commerce graduate with an MBA in Marketing and International Business. She worked as a financial analyst for a high profile custodian bank for a year before switching to writing and editing professionally. When she is not writing she spends her time reading and watching movies, listening to music, and traveling. Reading, for her, is a passion, nay, obsession and she fuels this obsession by collecting books on a wide range of topics.