Hiring A Brand Strategy Partner
Creating partnerships between brands and TV and film content is not such an easy process. And that difficulty is one of the prime reasons that a production company should hire a brand marketing strategist to become part of their team from day one of pre-production.
One major reason besides assisting in offsetting below the line budget, is to ensure the production team can see the big brand partnership picture, and not leave things on the table (or in the TV series or film) that will hamper their ability to have a brand sponsor come on post-production to assist with marketing the film. In this blog, Hollywood Branded provides insight to 18 reasons why production companies need to hire a brand marketing strategist to assist with brand partnerships.
The Danger Of Going It Alone
Let me give some insight to what can happen without having a sound strategy built on experience in place. I recently was approached by a film that was interested in having an automotive partner come on board, for a pre-release marketing push. The film is fully shot, and in post-production. The automotive brand is cast in a true starring role, yet the teaser reel to pitch the film has in the first three seconds, a shot of a beer being drunk in the car, while the cast is driving the car.
And here's the thing. An automotive executive is not going to get to second 4 before shutting down the partnership. Immediately. This is something that could have been avoided if a strategy had been in place before filming began, or at least before a sizzle was cut. This is all fixable – even in post-production. But if it had gotten to the brand for review first, there would not be a potential marketing partnership with any car brand. Or alcohol brand either.
Why Use A Brand Marketing Strategist
There are 18 key ways a brand marketing strategist will help a production. These include:
- Reviewing and outlining opportunities in the script for brand partnerships.
- Assisting or leading the graphic design and content of marketing materials for pitching the property.
- Reaching out to agencies and brands to secure actual brand contributions of in-kind (trade out) product that the production would otherwise have to either purchase or source themselves. Hundreds of thousands of dollars can be saved by a production, as everything ranging from beverages, to electronics, to automotive, to wardrobe items can be sourced by brands interested in providing gratis product in exchange for appearing on screen.
- As part of that reach out, ensuring tracking of all items that are shipped occurs. You want to be able to provide to e
- ach department head what product is coming, and when. And it allows for double checking that the product you really wanted, actually came.
- Plus... the dreaded word. Reshoots. What happens if down the line reshoots are needed? You are going to want to know what items were provided, and by who, so that you can get the products back for the reshoots, or order more, and ensure continuity in scenes is absolute perfection.
- And also tracking occurs for another reason. Why? Any product that is sent to a producton likely will need to be returned to the brand, if it is not a disposable product. Realize that anything with value is simply loaned for the time period of shooting. Never assume you get to keep an item unless that was negotiated as part of the deal up front. Until all items are returned and the production closed out, that brand marketing stategist is on your team to make sure
- Each item that appears on screen also needs to have logo clearance signed off by the brand. Your brand marketing strategist is going to be in charge of making sure those legal clearance paperwork gets signed.
- Additionally, any big quantity or high priced item is likely going to need to have a contract negotiated - which specifically outlines what happens in the case of the brand not making it on screen.
- Negotiating pay-for-play monetary deals, also known as Brand Integration, where a brand will provide compensation in exchange for the production creating a heightened usage of the brand in a scene, ensuring either logo placement is guaranteed or even that the brand’s essential marketing messaging is integrated into the content. This requires a lot of conversations, wheeling and dealing to make the partnership work. And even more contract work. By the way - don't expect to be paid anything until final edit and proof of the brand making it in the picture. A equity holding account is an option as well, but there are a lot of steps involved to make that happen.
- Strategizing – and this one is key!! – larger partnership options where the brand will help market the content, whether that be through social media, retail or co-branded media. Getting a brand to come on board to assist in this way is a mega win for brands, and the reason why studio distributors have entire teams built up in their promotional marketing group. They know how much money is saved from their own marketing dollars when brands help offset those costs.
- Being the bad guy. And the good guy. Let your brand marketing strategist be the tough one on negotiating so that you and the production don't have to be. The brand marketing strategist is actually smack dab in the middle - and should know how to talk both production talk and brand talk. And trust me - these are VERY different conversations, with VERY different goals by each party. It takes an individual who can see the benefits for both parties, and bring the two together, smoothing out rough edges along the way.
- Chasing down payments as needed. The brand marketing strategist can also help when it comes time for payola to be made (after confirmed exposure of course!)
- Over the years, I've seen in many occasions when a product usage change could result in a massive marketing partner – with the producers being left in the dust as they just didn’t know how to best work with brands. Having that extra set of eyes can mean the difference of having massive money left on the table by accident..
It's not just big box office action films that are the only content brands are willing to partner with. Creating the right strategy from day one will enable both independent (and studio) driven films and TV shows to harness more marketing power at the end of the day.
I'm a major proponents of the idea that it is time to modernize film and brand partnerships. With digital content strategies, even the smallest independent film has SOMETHING to offer a brand partner in exchange.
So let's take a look at a few ideas that a producer should keep in mind.
Why not bring the brand to the casting table, or show some footage of behind the scenes for the writers and director meetings with the brand in the room? This is content that a whole segment of the population is interested in – and allows them to sneak peak at what happens behind closed doors. Share it on your social channels and let the brand reshare that sneak peak with their own fans as production gets closer to starting. Having early buzz on social media is only going to help your production nowadays.
During Filming & Post Production
During filming and even into post production, develop a strategy based on providing content through social media or content that can be repurposed by the brand for their own digital and social channels.
Ideas may range from offering filmed backstage brand experiences with the cast and crew to customized vignettes created and prettily packaged, all the ready for the brand to leverage themselves, while bringing some extra PR and attention to the production – and starting strong word of mouth marketing. Create a hashtag for the film and brand and watch conversations soar. Have the unit publicist help the brand get some on set attention. This extra assistance will move the world for you and really get the brand on your team - for the long term.
After filming wraps, use the brand to help continue to push out that word of mouth marketing!
Think about sneak peak content that is distributed through brand partner’s digital channels. Or planning on submitting the film to a festival? Brand sponsors might be able to offset costs or sponsor dinner parties or screenings, and get some step and repeat branding or sampling on the red carpet, with PR coverage. The brand might be open to helping sponsor stunts that gain both the film and brand publicity.
Think content and impressions. What can the film makers offer that will provide the brand exposure with a content partner that makes sense and speaks to the same consumer? Brand marketers are looking for ways to differentiate and stand out from competitors. Entertainment and celebrity offers that option!
Time of Release
In the 6 to 8 weeks leading up to the film’s release, brand marketers may be willing to co-brand advertising with a call to action about the film’s release. This will include a release date of the property, as well as provide some sort of visual reason on why the partnership exists. Help the brand out and be creative!! You are asking the brand for just as much as they are asking you – this is a mutual beneficial relationship.
- This could be a customized theater, TV or digital spot. Some advice to producers & directors… offer the ease to the brand of creating a professional looking content piece during production for them… it makes it all the easier to get them to use it – even if through social media only. It’s the big picture of eyeballs gained versus the costs of the time and editing.
- And it could be something small, like a still image that is used in print or out of home advertising – or again through digital or even retail positioning at point of sale.
Here's the thing. Creativity is great. Every film producer, writer, director and cast member wants to have creative freedom. But at the end of the day, they also want a commercially successful film which not only will be great content, but will be viewed by a large enough audience so that those same producers, writers, directors and cast make money.
Getting a brand marketer’s support guarantees that you will garner more eyeballs and interest on the project, which results in more money for all at the end of the day. Even for those who aren’t earning more on the back end – the fact that their film experience on a production which ends up being even more of a box office success helps in future job bookings.
These partnerships do not need to be painful. There is no brand who wants to painfully be inserted into a project. Organic really is key. But so is making sure the brand wins. Brand marketers are hoping to partner with properties that will support their messaging to their targeted consumer, and in a way that is organic to the storyline. Not a hammer blow to the head.
So production execs… start those engines!!! It’s never too early to start strategizing for some effective brand marketing!!! Read our blog 5 Ways Brand Marketers Secure Product Placement To Increase Sales.
And check out these blogs on product placement as well:
- 3 Reasons Why Productions Use Product Placement, as well as these blogs:
- 4 Common Myths About Product Placement Debunked
- 10 Surprising Reasons Why Brands Do Product Placement
- 8 Ways To Use Product Placement Assets To Amplify Your Brand Into Sales
- 3 Important Steps In Planning Product Placement Strategy
- Thinking Product Placement Cost Is High (It Isn't!)
Want to get a better understanding of how a product makes it on screen? Then check out this video that walks you through the process!