Product Placement Isn’t Just For Mega-Corporations

You may have heard of product placement. If you have, you probably associate it with huge blockbuster movies and massive corporations, but product placement isn’t just for mega-corporations. It can be for small and medium size companies too.

What Is Product Placement?

In my last blog I wrote about what we can learn from movie trailers and used the trailer releases for Spectre, the latest James Bond film, as an example. That got me thinking. It got me thinking about James Bond. It doesn’t take a lot to distract me from work and get me thinking about James Bond but that’s by the by. What I started thinking about was who was my favourite. I started thinking about what I liked most about each actor’s films. One of the thoughts that occurred to me was about the products used by James Bond and an interview Pierce Brosnan gave where he talked about the product placement in his middle films, especially, where every car was a BMW, and every watch and phone had been paid for by the manufacturer. This is product placement. It’s not new.

1978’s Superman, famously, had a very strong anti-smoking message as did Superman 3. However, Superman 2, released in 1980, featured a scene where Superman battles General Zod and his companions in Metropolis and one of the vehicles that they throw at each other is a lorry (truck for any American readers) branded with the Marlboro logo. Also the character of Lois Lane was played as a chain smoker even though she didn’t smoke in the comics. In the first movie Superman makes a comment about the smoking and x-rays Lois’s lungs to check if she’s ok. There is no such comment in the second film. Why? Because Marlboro paid $43,000 for their logo to be displayed 22 times throughout the film.

That was the figure paid in 1980, imagine what it would cost now. So as an owner of a small business or the marketing officer of a medium size enterprise you’re probably thinking that this can’t possibly be of any use to you. BUT there is a new and more open, perhaps even more honest, form of product placement spreading across digital media.

Honest Product Placement

Product placement for business - this is not the future. It's NOW. Click To Tweet

The idea is simple. YouTube is full of video channels dedicated to all kinds of interests. There are DIY advice channels. Channels testing various make-up products. Channels where families unbox and play with their new toys to show people what they are like. Channels where Lego sets are built as a guide for the less experienced builder. Channels where experts complete legal forms. So for whatever your interest is there will probably be a YouTube channel with experts, How To videos, product comparisons, and people showing what they have done. Marketers aren’t stupid and so from this explosion of sharing and creativity came a marketing opportunity. Many companies will now give away sample products to popular channels for the exposure that results. Here are a few examples.


This video is the unboxing of some Marvel toys and has over three quarters of a million views.


“boxes of foxes”

This video is a make up test and has a quarter of a million views

“Skill Builder”

This video is a comparison test between cordless drills and has over half a million views.

As a small or medium sized business there is probably no advertising that you can afford that will have the reach of any of these example videos. They are being studied by a segment of the population that is actively interested in these products. They are ‘How To’ and testimonial videos where you do not have to pay for the production and where you do not need to spend time with a producer working on a video production. In short these channels are the crowd sourced, low cost, popular and targeted advertising that SHOULD make any business sit up and take notice.

The Dark Side

This kind of product placement does have a dark side to it. Some companies have been paying vloggers so that only positive comments will be made and so that their products are associated with popular personalities. They have been attempting to manipulate opinion leaders for their benefit. “Why not?” you may ask, that is the point of advertising after all. But here’s the thing. This kind of publicity works best when your target audience feels they can trust the opinion leader. To that end, the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK recently ruled that whenever a vlogger is paid to use a product, they must declare that fact. Having said that there does not seem to be a restriction on giving away products for the purpose of honest testing and comparison.

What Now?

I hear a lot of people talk about the next big thing in marketing. They talk about this thing or that and they say “This is the future”. Well the kind of product placement I’ve been writing about is, how do I put this? This is NOT the future. It’s NOW. This is a bandwagon that needs jumping on and can be incredibly powerful for your business. So go out and find a group or channel that is interested in your product and get yourself out there.