Do you remember the last time you saw an Apple logo in a movie or TV show? No? Yet, there’s a 50-50 chance you saw a MacBook or an iPhone in the latest Hollywood flick you watched. You just haven’t noticed it—and that’s the whole point.
Product placement is an open secret in the entertainment industry. There are whole companies that make placement deals with production companies on big brands’ behalf. And that’s a $23 billion industry on its own.
It’s also a great case study for marketing students—one you can’t avoid in your daily life. But they don’t view it the same way ordinary, not-marketing-savvy people do. Here’s how your perception will change if you decide to enroll in a marketing program.
First, a Little Background
What is product placement, exactly? In a nutshell, it takes place every time you see a real-world brand in an entertainment product.
It can be paid—some companies invest millions of dollars in it. It can also be organic (and free) or a part of the vertical integrated companies’ strategy. For example, Sony devices are featured in films produced by Sony Picture Entertainment.
You can see product placement everywhere: in movies and TV shows, in songs, and even in your social media feed. Yes, influencer marketing is a form of product placement!
You’ll Notice Even the Subtlest Cases
Meet Pete Goldberg, a professional paper writer from WritePaper.com who got his Master’s degree in marketing. Here’s how he puts it: “Once you know what to look out for, you simply can’t choose not to see it anymore.”
You’ll notice the product placement as you rewatch your favorite movie or when you listen to the song that you’ve had in your Spotify playlist for years. You’ll recognize the various tactics in every new piece of media consumed. There’ll be no going back to ‘before.’
Yet, it doesn’t have to be a tragedy, Pete says: “It’s entertaining most of the time. It cracks me up when it’s so obvious or obnoxious, even for someone who knows nothing about marketing. And when it’s the opposite, I can’t help but think, ‘Wow, that’s a job well done!’ And I keep learning from those examples, too.”
You’ll Understand Why Companies Bother with It
What drives companies like Apple, Aston Martin, or Coca-Cola to spend millions of dollars to plug their product in a Hollywood movie or a Netflix TV show? Why not use that money for ads?
The bottom line is that product placement is more effective because it’s subtle. And there are all sorts of benefits that brands gain from that fact:
- Product recall. If viewers see certain items used and mentioned, 81% of them can remember them afterward (as per Coleman’s research).
- Improved brand reputation. Consumers tend to think more highly about its products if they’re seen and/or mentioned in a positive context. According to Hollywood Branded, this goes for 60% of viewers.
- International exposure. People all over the world watch movies and TV shows produced in the U.S. That means that brands can reach them with a single action.
- Lower CPM. Yes, that’s right—it’s cheaper than traditional forms of advertising like TV ads if you divide the costs per 1,000 people reached.
You’ll Also Understand the Psychology Behind It
Marketing, in its essence, isn’t about negotiating deals or how to use Google Ads. Anyone can learn those technicalities. What makes a marketing specialist great is how well they understand the psychology driving consumers towards or away from a product.
When it comes to product placement in particular, here’s a reason why it’s so effective. When it’s done right, you simply don’t recognize it as a marketing effort. Therefore, there’s no persuasion knowledge effect. That’s a phenomenon describing a person getting defensive when they know they’re being actively convinced to do something or change their opinion.
There’s also this phenomenon called “ad blindness.” It explains how some people have developed a sort of immunity towards more explicit forms of advertising. At best, they just tune it out. At worst, it irritates them, which does more harm than good for the company’s image.
Think about it this way. When was the last time you finished watching a YouTube ad instead of clicking ‘Skip’ as soon as you could? Do you even notice any of the billboards in your city anymore? Or pay attention to those banner ads most websites put up to make revenue?
You’ll Be Able to Analyze the Good & the Bad
Once you become a marketing specialist, you may end up working for agencies that have household brands among their clients. That means you may work on the other side of the curtain, planning and negotiating product placement campaigns.
To ace this task, you’ll need expertise, and case studies are a great place to start. That’s why marketing students focus on them so much, be it for product placement or not. Analyzing what works and what doesn’t is a key skill for marketers.
That means watching movies, and TV shows will be more than just entertainment for you. You’ll be learning from others’ mistakes and successful placements. Talk about combining the pleasant with the useful, right?
You’ll Resist It Yourself
A marketing degree will also change your day-to-day life. You’ll be a lot less prone to the typical tricks brands employ to sway your opinion of them. Eventually, you’ll become immune even to the subtlest cases of product placement, thanks to the persuasion knowledge phenomenon.
Why does it matter? Well, this will help you make more informed decisions on future purchases. You won’t automatically go for Louis Vuitton or Apple when it’s time to shop; you’ll know your opinion of those brands was influenced. And your bank account will thank you later for it.
Being armed with marketing knowledge is akin to putting on a new pair of glasses. You’ll notice things you hadn’t paid attention to before—simply because you didn’t know what to look out for.
True, it might be annoying sometimes—you’ll catch yourself thinking, “Ugh, not again!” or “That wasn’t as subtle as they thought.” But it’ll be rewarding, too. You’ll be less prone to this type of marketing, for starters. Plus, if marketing is your cup of tea, it’s always fun to analyze the failures and successes of famous brands.