The fact that traditional marketing methods such as TV advertising, radio commercials and print are on the decline is old news. I don’t need to spell out the “why” for you: more and more people are getting their entertainment content online, commercial-less; print media output has shrunk. Nevertheless, brands of all shapes and sizes continue to invest large chunks of their budget on getting their brand out there. The only difference is that nowadays they’ve gotten creative.
Enter product placement, or “embedded marketing” to use its official name.
Case in point: Netflix’s hit show "House of Cards". Not going to lie, I’m a massive fan. This past month, I’ve devoted most of my much-coveted free time to Season 3 of the Underwoods. It’s hard to miss the fact that Frank’s Oval Office looks more like an Apple store than the presidential wing of the White House. Apple’s already prominent branding is out in full force. The screenshot below has been floating around the internet for a while now and is from Season 2 (I believe - don’t quote me on that though). You can spot Frank and Doug sitting at a table working and sporting not one, not even one each, but 9 different Apple devices between them. I mean, I have one each of every Apple product out there, but I’d be hard-placed to name a time when I needed 3 iPhones and 3 iPads at my disposal to get the job done - unless that job was selling Apple products, of course.
Moreover, I also noticed that the logo on Claire’s Macbook is about twice as big as the one on mine. This was done subtly, organically, yet obviously in order to make a lasting impression on the viewers’ subconsciousness.
Nor is Apple the only product being visibly promoted on the show - not by a long shot! Other featured products and brands include a Windows smartphone displayed so attractively that it made me reconsider my allegiance to my iPhone - until the next scene that prominently featured Frank ruling the world via his own iPhone, that is. In fact, the embedded marketing is so well done, its sneaky placement is masterminded as if by Frank himself.
To say that product placement is on the rise is a misnomer. In the aftermath of the 2009 Great Recession, as markets recovered, product placement has exploded with the force of a hundred atomic bombs. Considering that embedded marketing in one shape or another has been around for a long time, that’s really saying something. In 2012 alone, product placement increased by almost 12% in the US to a total of USD 8.25 billion. In the rest of the world, the growth rates were even more astounding: product placement in the Chinese market grew by 27.2% to USD 103 million. The Russian and Indian markets also documented increases of around 20%. Brazil’s product placement spending in 2012 was USD 861 million - three times larger than China’s, Russia’s and India’s combined - and was mainly fuelled by primetime programming.
So, the producers of House of Cards are not alone: TV content is by far the largest channel of product placement around the world. Moreover, product placement is not done growing yet: new markets including Australia, Mexico, Europe, and South Korea are relaxing regulations and opening up the market to embedded marketing as we speak. Product placement is coming to a TV near you, wherever in the world you are.
Brand recognition is must-have area of focus for any modern-day marketer. Or, as Season 3 Frank Underwood would put it, not only does America work(s), it seems embedded marketing is working overtime too.
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