Remember that epic selfie Ellen DeGeneres took at the 2015 Academy Awards ceremony with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3? That tweet not only broke the record for retweets previously set by President Obama, but also caused Twitter’s servers to crash.
At this year’s Golden Globes, Fiji Water attempted a similar stunt by hiring model Kelleth Cuthbert, who spent most her time photobombing stars on the red carpet while holding a tray of Fiji Water bottles. The stunt worked: the hashtag #FijiWaterGirl trended on Twitter, and earned 98.9 million impressions on the platform.
As far as product placements go, Samsung is still the one to beat – but there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for successful product placement. Brands are often torn between seamlessly integrating products into the broader narrative, or making it apparent enough to trigger a viral moment on social media.
So, how do you decide what’s right for your brand?
Start with a goal
The goal of any product placement is to reach your target audience, but having precise goals is key to ensuring success. Do you want to drive brand awareness? Is it higher recall you’re after, or are you aiming for greater brand loyalty? Answering these questions will not only inform your strategy and approach, but also help identify the metrics you use to measure success.
Whatever your objectives are, public relations can play a crucial role in reaching your desired audience, and then sparking and shaping conversations with them. There are many ways a strong PR strategy can do this – and tied with a content marketing approach it can go beyond awareness and actually drive leads for your business that you can track and measure.
Make it believable
Pulling off a product placement tie-in is only successful if it is believable. When deciding on a partnership, brands need to identify whether it’s a good fit and in line with its own tonality and values.
Don’t force your brand into a piece of content where it doesn’t feel right – because you will get called out. Reebok’s association with Jerry Maguire is a great example of product placement gone wrong. Reebok paid production company Tristar $1.5 million to feature its products, but the company somehow ended up being portrayed as a villain because of its refusal to sponsor Cuba Gooding Jr’s character. After some legal back and forth, the two companies reached a settlement, which included an ad for Reebok in the film’s credits.
Consider different content types
For most marketers, TV shows and movies are obvious product placement choices. But increasingly, we’re seeing brands experimenting with other formats, only to reap rich rewards. Coca Cola and Subway have both used video games to promote their brands, while musicians like Lady Gaga and Kanye West have seamlessly included brands in their music videos. For instance, brands such as Miracle Whip, Polaroid and Virgin Active made conspicuous appearances in her “Telephone” video, while West’s video for “Wolves” doubled as a promotional ad for fashion house Balmain.
As a marketing tactic, product placements can work incredibly well or backfire spectacularly – so be savvy and cover all your bases when considering a new association.
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