James Bond’s Aston Martin. Maverick’s Ray-Ban Aviators. Cast Away’s Wilson volleyball. These are just a few memorable examples of product placements and brand integrations that have given brands the spotlight.
Product placement and brand integration may seem like interchangeable movie jargon, but there’s a slight difference. Product placement is when a brand’s product is tied into a production and can be seen clearly, as defined by Hollywood Branded Inc. Stacy Jones, CEO of the entertainment marketing agency, adds that product placement is generally cost-effective for brands because the products are often loaned to the production or provided through a trade. On the other hand, Jones defines brand integration as a form of product placement where a brand’s product plays a role in the production’s story and a monetary exchange or larger trade is conducted.
While Kerri Cockrill, BlackBerry’s former director of entertainment, labels product placement as more “static” and brand integration as more “kinetic,” she says these lines are beginning to blur and that brands should focus on integration. Having previously worked for a mobile company, Cockrill says integrating electronics and mobile products is a great fit for brands given the products’ popularity and usage.
“Any sort of smartphone, tablet, or computer…is very much ingrained in people’s lives, and it’s a part of our everyday culture. I would argue that it’s part of pop culture much in the way that entertainment is,” Cockrill says. “It’s something that’s a hot subject, and you can see it in the news with reports on Apple, and less so these days with BlackBerry, Android, and who’s next, and who’s suing who. It’s right up there with who’s dating who and who’s divorcing who.”
While many associate product placements with film and TV, Jones says product integrations can be spotted in other content forms, as well, including online and music videos. “If you’re looking at that 13- to 35-year-old engagement factor, then it’s not your traditional ways of the music video that’s on MTV, it’s on VH1, [and] it’s on BET. It’s the fact that it’s on YouTube [and] it’s on Vimeo,” Jones says. “Those numbers translate into millions and millions of consumers.”
In addition to driving consumer reach, Jones says product placement and brand integration also drive customer retention.
“Everyone knows about DVR and ad skipping nowadays…but when a celebrity is incorporating a brand into either their everyday life or onto the screens, consumers have an affinity for purchasing what the celebrity wears, uses, or talks about,” Jones says.
So how do brands determine if a product placement is successful? Jones says Hollywood Branded uses metrics such as consumer reach, retention, influence factors, intent to purchase, retail sales, and social media chatter.
Jones adds that product placement could positively affect a brand’s search engine marketing if the brand develops a program promoting its integration, such as through banner ads, digital ads, and key search terms. She also recommends using celebrity endorsements to help promote a campaign.
“A successful product placement, when it comes down to the bare bones, is a successful promotion to generate sales or to generate identifying who you are,” says Jay May, founder and president of product placement agency Feature This!.
However, aside from impressions, Cockrill says results “aren’t as tangible as you would hope.”
“Product placement or brand integration needs to be considered part of the marketing mix…” Cockrill says, “to help drive brand affinity and brand awareness.”
According to Cockrill, Hollywood Branded is BlackBerry’s agency for all product placement purposes. During her time with the company, Cockrill says BlackBerry placed one of its mobile phones into Jason Reitman’s movie Up in the Air starring George Clooney and Vera Farmiga. She said the product placement fit into the movie well given that the main characters represented BlackBerry’s primary customers. “That was a really great example of brand integration because both of those characters were busy executives who were traveling all the time, which is the hallmark of Blackberry products: to make your life and work easier to do.”
Cockrill says one of the best examples of brand integration in the film is when Clooney and Farmiga are communicating with each other from separate cities via BlackBerry Messaging, BlackBerry’s mobile instant messaging app.
“It wasn’t [great] because we created it, it was [great] because the scene called for these two [to be] communicating somehow via text. But, hey, if you’re using a BlackBerry…why not feature a unique selling point of BlackBerry? Luckily the director was on board,” she says.
However, Cockrill says that showing a product’s capabilities isn’t always easy. With TV product placements taking about six weeks to plan and execute and movies taking about a year and a half, products can sometimes appear dated by the time they reach the screen, she says. “With film, it needs to be more of the essence of your brand or the emotion you’re trying to get across with your brand as opposed to literally just the product,” Cockrill says.
Yet, Cockrill says BlackBerry faced a different challenge.
“The only challenge that they faced was if the filmmakers were diehard Apple fans and they wanted to use Apple products,” Cockrill says.
To overcome the Apple obstacle, Cockrill says BlackBerry strived for the “hero placement” and to obtain a placement that made it standout from competitors’ placements.
Furthermore, Cockrill says BlackBerry didn’t use any channels to promote its brand integration. She personally thinks that promoting product placements through a variety of channels, such as through social, digital, print, advertising, and cinema buys, is something brands “need to do.”
“Social is one of the best ways to do it because you can synch up films, or music artists, or a television show, you can link to each other, you can create promotions digitally, [and] it doesn’t take a lot of money or a lot of resources,” Cockrill says.
Both Cockrill and Hollywood Branded’s Jones claim that product placement and brand integration are not expensive investments. Depending on the agency fee, project type, and number of product placement occurrences throughout a time frame, Jones says that placing and integrating products can cost anywhere between $25,000 to $50,000 and $300,000 and $400,000, respectively.
Cockrill and Jones also agree that it’s important to map out a placement strategy.
“The most important thing with entertainment marketing is that you have a plan, you have a strategy, and that everything that you’re working on layers on top of one another,” Jones says. “It’s not just the shotgun approach…It’s literally sitting down strategizing, planning, and then building a concrete program that’s going to report what shows up on screen and bring it back home to the brand.”