We believe that bringing brands, content, celebrities and influencers together makes storytelling more meaningful and impactful.
The role of product placement has always been and will probably always be a hot button issue. It is synonymous with new cars in action films, iconic candy in family classics and more recently instant breakfast on Stranger Things. While many brands are skeptical of becoming a part of horror films for fear of a negative association, the genre has actually proven to actually be as beneficial for brands as any other in film.
In Ari Aster's latest release, we see that while product placement is not heavily incorporated into the film, it is arguably crucial to the framing and storytelling. In this blog post, Hollywood Branded examines the product placement of the film Midsommar, and how it contributed to the story.
Viewing audiences have at times expressed frustration with it and argued that it can take you out of the film. But often times product placement arguably does the exact opposite. When you see a character using a prop with branding of a fake company it can be distracting because you are instantly reminded of the fact that everything you're watching is fake because not even the brand of soda being held is real.
In this way product placement actually helps establish the scene which ultimately leads to a believable and relatable setting. Admittedly, it would be a stretch to call Ari Aster's latest release a brand-friendly film (not many branding opportunities) but the brands utilized in it are pivotal to framing and understanding these characters.
The film tells the story of a woman, Dani who is invited at the last minute to join her boyfriend, Christian and his friends on a trip to Sweden. The trip is held as a field study for Christian's friend, Josh to observe and write his thesis about the cultural practices of the small community their other friend, Pelle grew up in before going to the United States to study. As the trip progresses, the group of friends begin to notice behaviors in the community that become increasingly disturbing.
Let's take a quick look at the brands that are placed in Midsommar and what they say about the characters utilizing them.
Apple does seem like the juggernaut of electronic brands that you would expect to see in any film at this point but let's pause on that thought really quickly? A lot of film and television incorporate competing brands like Dell (known famously for extensive placement in both mediums) and could have just as easily been the laptop of choice for this film.
So then, why Apple? Context clues like the main character, Dani (Florence Pugh) comes from an affluent upper middle class upbringing as seen in the shot panning through her parents home and indicated by the fact that she, like her boyfriend and his friends, is a candidate in a PhD program in Psychology.
Apple, and specifically their laptops, are not cheap. We all know this and placing an Apple laptop in usage by both Dani and the other characters in this film is a reminder of their privilege and helps establish the setting in a natural, organic and relatable way. But that's not all Apple's presence does for the film. It's also specifically a very American brand and while it's usage is popular internationally, it has the highest stronghold in American culture.
When we see the character Josh (William Jackson Harper), using an Apple laptop during his downtime in the commune, we are reminded yet again of how striking the brand's presence is in a cult community where electronics are not a part of every day life. The presence of any major electronic brand in this film helps further in the othering of the main characters and how they are outsiders in this world.
The brand, The North Face is also placed prominently as seen above when Dani first enters the Swedish commune, wearing a backpack made by the brand. Again, this selection was perfect and undoubtedly a conscious decision as it reinforces the character's background ever so subtly.
Much like Apple, The North Face is not the cheapest of its competitors. With products known for durability in camping, hiking and all things related to the outdoors, The North Face has a very specific branding to it. As considered the premium, it's further evidence that Dani and her counterparts come from a very comfortable lifestyle. In fact, their branding is so consistent and well known that it even spurred a classic internet meme:
When I was in the bay area for college, I would regularly see PhD candidates that acted as teaching assistants wearing The North Face. It's exactly on brand for a character living in Dani's world.
The shoe brands, New Balance and Nike may have stolen the show entirely when it comes to product placement for this film. Where the members of this Swedish cult all dawn brand-less and seemingly homemade white garb and walk around barefoot, the fact that the American guests are wearing sneakers is visually striking because you are constantly reminded of how different the spaces each character occupies when one wears shoes and the other doesn't.
I cannot remember the last time I was always aware of the fact that a character was wearing New Balances as in this film. There are several shots in which we see Josh curled up with his shoes on as a visual reminder of how American he is in contrast to this bizarre cult.
Or how about the placement of these Nikes as worn by Dani's unlikable boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) when the group first arrives? As the presence of wearing shoes indicates the characters are not native to the countryside community, every placement of a shoe brand continues to be in extreme contrast to the barefoot inhabitants.
What's most effective about the usage of product placement in Midsommar is it's SUBTLETY. Brand integrations weave the brand into the narrative where product placement (when executed effectively) enhances the world of the story, rather than drawing too much attention to itself. It's important to note that while viewing audiences may not consciously think too much about the presence of a brand in a film, it does subconsciously remind them of the brand reinforces the positive connections they associate with it. In short, we like seeing things we like in movies we like and this ultimately does make waves in your branding's presence and awareness.
To learn more about effective product placement, check out some other blog posts we've written on myths, findings from our experience and other case studies!
Are you interested in learning more about how product placement can benefit your brand? There are so many product placement options for brands seeking a brand integration in films - to learn more, download our Product Placement 101 infographic.