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Deeply Exploring Brand Placement

(First published in Modern Weekly, Business version, Brand Thinking)
 The author is an experienced brand consultant, who has many years’ experience in brand planning, marketing strategies and integration of communication planning and implementation. Once worked as senior manager in multi-national and local companies in marketing consulting and integrating communications fields, experienced in strategic planning. He formerly worked for CNC and was responsible for brand management.  Providing brand strategies, communication strategies and implementation and training service for many international and local clients. The brands include: FAW-Volkswagen, Jetta Cars, 263 Internet Communications, Dangdang Website, Aucma Airconditioner, FAW Toyota, Tour in Sichuan, CNC, LG, Beijing Yanli Food, and more.

He constantly ponders and develops professional settlement methods in marketing, branding and communication fields, etc. Lots of articles have been published in professional media such as International Advertising, AD PANORAMA, Advertising Pointer, China Marketing Communication Website (EMKT) and so on. You are welcome to discuss your ideas and express your opinions with the author. Tel: 13901385424 E-mail: lei.sun@revobranding.com

If we consider an entertainment product as a fictitious place that exists, then we must logically put brand information into this fictitious place so that consumers can naturally accept it. On a leisurely Saturday afternoon, while you comfortably lie on the sofa in your living room and are attentively watching a 007 movie, you might not pay attention, nor even care about the various brands which are frequently showed in the movie, such as Omega, Aston Martin and so on. But you have subconsciously remembered these brands’ names knowing what they represent, meanwhile relating them with James Bonds’, thrilling adventures and luxurious lifestyle. Yes, this is a marketing means with a consciousness; let us unveil the logic behind it. Omnipresent Brand Placement
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We can all agree "Sex and the City” is famous show, right? Do you remember the brand name of Carrie Bradshaw’s favorite shoes? Yes, it is Manolo Blahnik, which costs 500 U.S. dollars per pair both in the show and in real life.

How does the British movie star Jude Law influence the world? His movie Alfie is a good example. He wears a fit and fashionable suit seducing women with a charming demeanor in the movie. But how does he maintain such a powerful charming character? The question is answered by a carefully styled plot twist of the movie in which Jude Law directly faces the camera and sincerely speaks to the audience: I only wear Gucci!

When participating in the online game named “Autobahn”, you can step in to any driving accessories store. The store is unique for its virtualization and Michelin tire logo in the broad view of the store. When you want to buy tires using virtual money, the message box of the computer provides you with information such as installation site, break
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strength, frication coefficient and X-ICE rating of the Michelin tire. The X-ICE factor can improve the breaking and acceleration performance of the car on snow and ice, ensure the safety of drivers on icy days, maintain vehicle’s steering responsiveness and make the vehicle more stable. All these give the players an opportunity to experience and enjoy the high technology and performance of the Michelin group. I’m sure if we all tried to recall all the brand placements we’ve ever seen, we all could add plenty of similar examples. The similarity between all these cases is that the products and brands business information has become a part of the entertainment content! We name the marketing communication form and the close combination between products and brands business information and the entertainment products their presented in as “Brand placement”. Brand placement, is rapidly developing. Various movies, TV shows, award ceremonies, music videos, musicals, plays, concerts, and games have been completely and extensively immersed in all sorts of business information of all brands. According to a study from PQ Media Research, the overall payout of ads placement reached 3.5 billion US Dollars in 2005. According to the study of Nielsen Media research, there were 12,867 ad placements among the top ten prime time TV programs in the first quarter of American TV in 2005. According to a forecast of Yankee Group’s report on the American market, in the following years, the game-show advertising industry will grow rapidly. It is possible for this market area to reach 1 billion US. Dollars by the year of 2010 compared to only 200 million US Dollars last year. The brand influence of 007 series movies brought BMW Auto Company to a 1.2 billion premium. Due to the communication of 007 heroes, the price of the Omega watches which Pierce Brosnan wore in the movies suddenly jumped into the first class of watches from Switzerland third class.

Special effect of Brands Placement The core reason for the increasing popularity of brand placements is that consumers are not interested in advertisements themselves, and they even will intentionally avoid advertisement information. With the diversification of media and appearance of interactive media like the Internet, when you can use Tivo to record TV shows to avoid commercials, uniting business information with entertainment content becomes a natural choice. Enterprises also choose brand placement as a marketing strategy sometimes to create a "magic" effect. A 1982 movie changed the fate of a brand. At that time, candy manufacturer Hershey decided to place Reese's Pieces-a candy brand into a movie plot, which may probably be Hershey’s most successful marketing strategy ever. Because this film was directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie’s name is "ET"! Within three months after it was released, Reese's Pieces sales volume has increased by 65 percent. It was not only played in cinemas, but also was known to people through video, television, and
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later DVD. Plus it was distributed world wide. Reese's Pieces got numerous exposure media from one marketing decision. Beyond that, outstanding entertainment products like "ET" are deeply remembered by consumers. Films like ET that have touched their hearts established emotional ties with them. On this basis, consumers will naturally establish emotional ties with the brands that were featured in the movies they love. In the film, the little boy used Reese's Pieces candy to lure the alien into his house. After that, many boys bought Reese's Pieces candy, with the hope that they too can attract friendly aliens to their home. When children found and purchased brands shown in the movies, they showed that they want to be the little boy in the movie! 800 theaters that previously never sold Reese’s Pieces before the movie was released began to purchase this brand to sell to their customers. In other words, brand placements provide target audiences’ tools to get what they want from movies. When brand placements are highly involved with the role that actors play in a movie or even become a tool to highlight some characteristics of the role, the brands become a part of role. Brand placements will provide the audience information that are related to a role; display the specialty of a role and their life style to help the audiences identify the role that the actors played in the plot; clearly strengthen the perception of the role and also the relationship between audiences and the role to make the movie more enjoyable.

The character of Brands Placement Although brand placements have a "magic"-like effect, when you put it into practice, you will meet with lots of problems, and this is actually due to the wrong understanding of the brands’ placement. For example, after the release of locally Chinese produced movie "the 601st phone call", there were many people expressing their views on a famous website in China about this movie’s overuse of product and brand placement. One viewer thought that the plot of "the 601st phone call" was not bad, but there were two mobile ad placements in this movie which made her feel uncomfortable. She thought that it is very difficult to link those placements to the plot and the emergence of the phone ad is too farfetched. Another viewer was really mad about the ad placement, and he said: "How many ads a movie can contain? If a movie doesn’t concentrate on its subject, but is more interested in inserting ads and earning sponsorship revenue, it will not be a good movie. " Indeed, different from sponsorship and advertisement, brand placement should be a more "subtle" form of communication. First of all, brands, products, enterprises and other business information must become an integral part of entertainment products. When the
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007 films are shown in cinemas, you can insert previews in the opening, and when it was shown on TV, you can insert the channel logo of the TV station in the corner and logos of the enterprises that are sponsoring TV on the screen. But no one can replace the brands that appeared in the 007 movie, such as James Bond’s Aston Martin car, the OMEGA watch he wore and Bollinger Special Cuvee Champagne he drank. If people really want to replace them, we can only wait until the next movie. The goal of brand placement is to allow the target audiences to identify and discover the brands, rather than forcing them to get the brands information. The effect of brand placement is to unite the brands information with the entertainment products’ contents to let the audiences get in touch with the brands information without losing the current happy experience. If we consider an entertainment product as a virtual place, the brands placement information must logically exist in this virtual place so that consumers will naturally accept it. For the audiences, when they are enjoying the entertainment products, money is not a problem, what really matters are the time and attention that they put on it. Therefore, we can understand the reason why "the 601st photo call" made the audiences so angry, just because the abrupt brand placement detached her from the movie plot and seriously affected the entire feeling. She feels she didn’t get her value for her money, time and attention she put into this movie!

The key factor of success How can we successfully apply brand placement? Audi is a very successful example for us to learn from. In 2002, Audi finally chose the next generation new family model design: “Audi Single-Frame Grille” The designer links the bumper with the inlet to form a huge grille. Functionally, this kind of design can provide the high-power engine with a better cooling effect. From the point of design, the front ends of the new Audis’ look very “aggressive”. The entire series, from A3, A4, A6, A8 to the TT, will use such a design concept. For this reason, the design concept of the Audi will only allow success, not
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failure - it must win the consumers’ favor and acceptance. How to achieve this goal? Audi will make use of all its resources. When a Chinese leader visited the Audi factory in Munich, Germany, the company chose the design draft of Audi A6’s new front end as his speech background. With this design, Audi introduced several concept cars to prepare to launch in the market; In 2004 Geneva Motor Show, Real Madrid's Ronaldo, Luis Figo and Raul were invited to create a buzz…The brands placement found its good expression in the movie "I Robot". Audi's task was to design a car for the leading role in this movie. After a total of 15 leading engineers’ hard work, the super concept car Audi RSQ was born. This car is full of the marvel of science and technology, mid-installed engine, reverse butterfly doors; the coolest design is its spherical wheels rather than the traditional wheel. Most importantly, the main purpose of designing this leading-edge RSQ for the Audi's design team was to show off the Audi brand and prepare for the latest family model design. The plot of this science fiction film which would occur in the future, strengthened Audi's brand connotations, and this not only would give people an opportunity to have a look at Audi’s new family model design, but also would bring an advanced and technical brand association to it. Along with the global launch of this movie, the RSQ was transported all over the world, and hordes of movie fans came to see it. At the same time, printed advertisements and networking topics were created and numerous PR-related articles were published for Audi. We can see that the core subject of these communications was “the future shocks the present”. Of all the communication activities, the most core image for the RSQ is its unique front end design. For a time, RSQ became a PR topic and also a topic which everybody loved to talk about. As a result of fully preparing and educating the market in such a way, the Audi's unique image has been clearly ironed in people's mind. And it has built a close relationship with the positive associations such as advancement, technology and innovation. When the new Audi A6, once again calling for the recognition of consumers with its technology and bright future, the consumer will naturally accept it! Let’s summarize Audi‘s success. Firstly, because Audi chose a successful partnership, that is the experienced 21st Century Fox company, with its famous movie star Will Smith. Secondly, it also chose a science fiction movie as its entertainment project which runs parallel with Audi’s brand connotations and values. In addition, the RSQ become an integral part of the movie and also a key factor for the success of this movie for its deep logic and close contact with the plot. More importantly, Audi carried out large-scale promotion with this movie's release to effectively use the resources of the placement and also achieve the goal of placing itself and strengthening placement impact with the wide-spread influence of the movie.

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Conclusion Currently in China, the practice of brand placement is in on the rise, among which there are still many mysteries waiting for people to explore, and the huge market is forming. For the marketing practitioners and brand managers of different industries, to go deep into brand placement, actually means an unprecedented idea, to go deep into the media and entertainment industry, and to discern their internal rules and operating knacks. Entertainment, experience and communication are the major trends of all industries in the future. Whether this fact can be the best reason of going deep into brand placement only time will tell.

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