Last week’s column looked at some lessons we could take away from the now infamous coffee cup gaffe in episode four of this season’s “Game of Thrones.” This week I’d like to take a look at product placement as a marketing strategy and how accessible it is if it makes sense for your brand.

Product placement does not just mean having your product sitting in front of a lead character in a worldwide phenomenon like “Game of Thrones.” It could be:

  •Characters using/wearing your product in a scene.
  •News anchors, talent judges or game show hosts using your product as they “do their job” on the show (like a branded pen).
  •Your product being featured as a prize for a game show, radio giveaway, or live drawing at an event.
  •Your product appearing in a video game as a prop or in the background.
  •An augmented reality game or music video spotlighting your product in some way (like the performer wearing your clothes or watch).

The list is as long as your imagination will allow it to be. Whether you execute it on a local level or for all the world to see, there are definitely some best practices to keep in mind.

There’s a fine art of being very visible and present but not too noticeable or present. You want your brand to get noticed, but it shouldn’t be the star of the show. You have to be disciplined enough not to be greedy. Think about Reese’s Pieces and the movie “E.T.” When you watched that movie, did it occur to you that it was a paid placement? It was subtle. It also increased sales by 65%.

Never forget who you are trying to reach. This will help you define the best opportunity for you. It will also help you avoid going too big and not speaking as directly to the people who matter the most.

Product placement is definitely a “measure twice, cut once” strategy. You are going to live and die by the agreement you negotiate with the placement partner, so go slowly and carefully. Get as much creative control as you can.
Don’t forget to involve your internal audiences. One of the best ways to magnify the impact of your product placement is to get your employees and customers excited about the exposure. They often have fun and unique ideas for extending the value of the placement.

Get your digital assets ready. No matter what kind of product placement you opt for, it’s going to create curiosity about your brand and drive traffic to your website. Do not waste that opportunity by being unprepared. Be thinking about how you can extend the placement, heighten the audience’s interest and capture contact information for future marketing efforts.

You shouldn’t count on it, but product placement does offer the chance of going viral like the coffee cup mistake on “Game of Thrones.” It’s a lovely bonus, but that shouldn’t be your motivating factor.

Product placement is all around us. You only need to watch one episode of any show on HGTV to see it in action. Flip on your radio and listen to the hosts give away a prize package of a hotel room, limo ride and dinner. Odds are, they’re all product placements. Next time you watch a YouTube cooking video, if you see the brand name of a pot or pan – that’s product placement.  

When it’s done well, we don’t notice it on a conscious level. The ad (which is what it really is) seems so natural and almost accidental that our brains don’t register it as such. We have already connected with the story or the person on screen, and why wouldn’t they be eating that particular candy bar or wearing that specific jacket?