We all know about product placement in TV shows and movies. Most of the time it’s not well done and expensive. Recently, Quill paper (owned by Staples) signed a deal with “The Office”, in particular utilizing the imaginary company of Dunder Mifflin. The goal is to sell more copy paper. The packaging will be printed with slogans from the show such as “Our motto is, ‘Quabity First’” and “Get yoru scrant on”. This approach is called “Reverse Product Placement”. The power comes from leveraging fictional pop culture brands or personalities with a real-life brand. This one makes sense because of the close tie to the subject matter. Both are paper companies and both service the B2B market.
Another example was 7-Eleven’s deal with the Simpsons animated show. 7-Eleven stores were all decked out with Simpsons signage, cutouts, and icons to promote their coffee and donuts specials. Again, this was a great natural tie-in because of Homer’s (the main character in the Simpsons) love of junk food, especially donuts. They saw a major increase in sales and volumes with the stores that were converted. Other “Reverse Product Placement” includes Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurants (inspired by the movie Forrest Gump) and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans (a candy from the Harry Potter books).
What makes a great “Reverse Product Placement” tie-in? The main factor is the show must have a strong similarity to the brand. It must stay within context of the fictional brand for it to make sense to the consumer and is easily translated to the real-life brand. People know when brands are trying to force fit an endorsement or show tie-in. By doing that, brands end up worse off in the court of public opinion than if they didn’t do anything at all. Consumers will think of a brand as too “commercial” and disingenuous. A fake who is trying to capitalize on what’s “hot” just because. Here are a few points to keep in mind when considering a”Reverse Product Placement”:
• Does the imaginary brand align with yours?
• Does the association feel “natural”?
• Is there an authentic role for the imaginary brand to fulfill in marketing the real-life brand?
It’s great to have imaginary friends, so long as they enhance your image.