So Hip That Fans Are Knocking On Your Door For Purchase Opportunities
Don’t you want to be the brand that broke the mold and done a little something extra to make yourself super cool, and highly purchasable? Going it alone isn’t necessarily so easy but partnering with another brand that already has that aura of cool is an opportunity that if leveraged right, leads to major success. And that is what happens when brands create licensed lines around pop culture – specifically the brand partner being a feature film or TV show.
For brands interested in leveraging the world of entertainment, partnering with a TV show or a feature film, at the very beginning, can lead to major brand wins. In this blog, Hollywood Branded looks at how some brands have leveraged pop culture to create licensed lines from TV shows or feature films, and how these new brand lines get massive consumer attention and have built in buyers from the get go.
The Coolness Of Pop Culture Leads To Great PR (And Sales)
As I said before, brands who partner with a TV show or feature film at the very beginning, can lead to major brand marketing and sales wins. We've seen it time and again for our clients over the years. It lays the ground work for a bigger partnership to be built. For a feature film, if you aren't in the film as product placement, when it comes time for planning a marketing campaign, it typically doesn't make as much sense to blow out a partnership with a film that doesn't have your brand included.
Getting involved with product placement at the get-go and becoming part of the scene or story line in multiple TV series and films opens doors to much bigger partnerships down the road. Getting your brand INTO a TV show or movie as product placement is one way to create a partnership that will help grow brand awareness. This is a marketing strategy that many brands incorporate into their advertising planning.
There is, however, another tactic that is more sales focused versus brand awareness focused – and that is actually creating a licensed product from a hit TV show or movie. If you are able to find a cool product line to develop from a hit film and are willing to market it– regardless if you were seen in the film or TV content, then that is another avenue to explore that can lead to high sales success. After all, you have a built-in fan base to leverage.
Creating licensed product lines can be done on a limited-edition basis or built for a full scale permanent brand line extension. Typically the shorter term licensed product creations are built around an event – like the release of a feature film, or an anniversary celebration of a TV show that is a well-established favorite. And it can even be built in alignment with the creation of the content – so the brand exists as product placement and is launched in the real world at the same time.
Today I’m going to talk about those two types of options – limited edition product launches that coincide with an event, as well as permanent brand lines that have an entire marketing plan built around it, and a few other examples that fall in between.
So let’s start with talking about limited edition product line launches.
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Stranger Things & Schwinn
Hit TV shows offer prime opportunities for brands to show off and promote their product, and Stranger Things, one of the most popular TV series currently on TV or SVOD is no exception to this rule. While many brands may have been a little slow to realize the power of a TV horror show that takes place in the 80's, other brands have found nirvana in . If you don’t know about Stranger Things, it is a Netflix Original TV series that is about a band of pre-teens and teens who live in a small Indiana town back in the early 1980s. The group manages to get involved in combating some extremely obscure and mysterious supernatural forces, as their friendships grow ever closer. Part of the mystery is Eleven, who is a very unusual girl with some very special powers of her own.
And while Netflix doesn't like to reveal numbers... Nielsen did a study and announced that "almost 16 million people watched the premiere episode of the second season of Stranger Things within three days". And to make that even more astounding as far as the true viewership - that did not include viewers who watched on computers, tablets or phones, as Nielsen doesn't have access to tracking on those devices, nor the ability to track outside the US.
That means the TV series is one of Netflix’s most popular, and that the audience tuning in to watch Stranger Things upon immediate release is just as high – and in fact higher – than any of the broadcast networks' top scripted TV shows. And it likely has a longer lifespan with delayed viewership. In fact, The Hollywood Reporter ranked Stranger Things as the number two show of the season of all TV shows on air at that time.
Getting your brand on the TV screens of millions of viewers through product placement can absolutely help your brand increase recognition and sales along the way. Though it can also be hard to quantify that exposure, and have proof that it works. With Stranger Things, brand partnerships - both on screen through product placement and off screen through licensing deals, have created massive sales results that are very measurable. And one such brand that didn't make it onto the screen found another way to leverage success - with a licensing partnership.
Schwinn managed to get Netflix to allow them to create a publicity stunt of sorts - with a licensed line of bikes. If you watch the TV series, you know that the kids all ride bikes. In the spirit of classic eighties americana, that’s how they get around. Those specific bikes in the show are not necessarily Schwinn but for this partnership, that didn't matter. In the licensed Schwinn Stranger Things partnership, only 500 bikes were made, and as fitting for a 1980's bike, you could not order it through any digital channel. You had to pick up the phone and call 1-800-SCHWINN and ask to buy Mike's Bike for $379.99 They sold out in a week! Schwinn even produced an '80s-style commercial to promote the bike that ran digitally on YouTube.
Just When You Think Netflix Can't Get Bigger - It Does
Netflix has led the game in completely redefining the way viewers consumer entertainment. Now Netflix is capitalizing on their success by releasing plans to sell merchandise for some of their biggest shows. Netflix's series have drawn fans from all over the world. From cult hit Stranger Things to long-standing, beloved series like House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black, Netflix has a wide variety of fans consuming their original content. And capitalizing on the success of their series with comics, books, toys and branded merch makes sense and is a brilliant next step for the company.
What This Means For Your Brand
The expansion of Netflix is important for brand marketers in that not only will product placement be amplified with added marketing of the show itself, but there may be more opportunities for brand marketers to pair with individual shows to create merchandise and extend the partnership off screen - something Netflix has been adamantly against until recently.
So the case study I just spoke about with Stranger Things capitalized on current popular content. Let’s discuss a case study of a brand created from content that was popular in the past – but that seemingly still holds popular with past fans of the TV show.
A Line Of Cereal From Golden Girls
When you are considering creating a brand extension from a TV show or feature film, it doesn’t mean you need to only look at current day properties. Some content has shelf life opportunities for brand extensions that last literally, decades.
One such property is The Golden Girls, a show which ran from 1985 to 1992 – meaning it has not aired a new episode in over 26 years, and the fact that several of the cast is no longer even alive. Yet that did not stop The Funko’s, a brand that literally exists to create new lines of products by licensing pop culture content like TV shows and feature films. The company designs, sources and then finds distribution channels for the typically limited-edition lines it has created, partnering with retailers like Target, or selling direct to the consumer through their own boxed product offerings and subscriptions.
The Funko’s created a cereal based on the show, and secured a distribution partnership with Target. In a week, the product was no longer available, as it completely sold out – garnering national media attention. Now that licensing deal likely had a product quantity maximum, or a time frame limit on being able to exist for sale. And if the product was sold for a longer time frame, while a larger consumer base may have jumped at the chance to purchase the product, it likely didn’t have a long term chance at survival overall. It’s more of a product line that gets public fascination based on the quirkiness factor.
A Limited Promotional Partnership
Sometimes it’s about promoting the content versus just creating a brand line for a limited time. In cases where a brand partnership is created where the brand helps advertise the film or TV property for a limited time frame co-branded partnership where the brand is helping drive awareness of the content partner – typically right before the movie is going to be distributed, or for a big anniversary or celebration of a TV show. So let's take a look as some of those partnership case studies.
Frito Lays & South Park
For the 15th anniversary of South Park, Frito Lays created a customized line of Eric Cartman’s primary food – the Cheesy Poofs. Partnering exclusive with WalMart, 1.5 million packs of the snack chips were produced.
Ben & Jerry’s & SNL
Ben & Jerry’s is one brand that has capitalized on creating flavors based on TV content, such as their Saturday Night Live fudge-covered-malt-ball-flavored ice cream flavors that are updated yearly with Wayne’Swirld, Schweddy Balls, Lazy Sunday and Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch , or the Jimmy Fallon ice cream partnership with The Tonight Dough.
CoverGirl & Star Wars
Star Wars did this with CoverGirl makeup, creating a "Dark Side" and "Light Side" color along with other brand partnerships. That helped drive fan girls to purchase the makeup in time of the film’s release.
7-11 & The Simpsons
Let’s take a look at another such partnership. Seven Eleven partnered with Fox for The Simpsons Movie back in 2007, where they turned several 7-11s into Kwik-e Marts where fans could purchase Simpsons-related products like Buzz soda, Krusty-O’s cereal and Squishees (instead of slurpees). This was a massive undertaking for the brand as they literally did face lifts on retail properties. But it was done as a PR stunt, that garnered a lot of attention too. Well worth the costs associated with the stunt.
Nike & Back To The Future
Nike finally created the much-promised limited edition of self-tying shoes styled after Back To The Future II in celebration of the film’s 20th anniversary.
And then there are those longer shelf life brands – that might even start out as a co-promotional limited edition plan, and grow to something bigger.
Duff Beer & The Simpsons
Some brand deals are for a limited time. Others, create a brand that will stand alone through years of sales. One such brand is Duff Beer, Homer’s Springfield favorite in The Simpsons, which has a licensed line of distributors in South America, and a long list of brand extensions including Raspbery Duff, Tartar Control Duff, Lady Duff, Regular Duff, Duff Light, Duff Dry, Duff Stout and a host of other product lines. Back in 2016, Time included Duff Beer in a list of the most influential fictional companies of all time.
Bubba Gump Shrimp & Forrest Gump
And then think about Forrest Gump. You certainly may remember Russell Stover who had a starring role when Tom Hanks reminiscences that life is like a box of chocolates… but what about Forrest Gump and his shrimp boats – which led to someone actually creating 40 real Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant locations, opening the first two years after the film’s release. Twenty-two years later, the restaurants still draw in tourists. That is absolutely amazing.
Pottery Barn Kids & Star Wars
You can also look at pretty much any brand line extension created from Star Wars as an example of licensed brand partnerships. Take Pottery Barn Kids as an example, which has created actual furniture and bedding as well as room accessories capitalizing on both parents and kids love of the film. The line is still actively sold in stores today.
Jelly Belly, Quidditch & Harry Potter
Or Harry Potter, where Jelly Belly created a line of jelly beans inspired by the film, with Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans including such noxious flavors as dirt, rotten egg, soap and vomit along with more tasty treats. Plus they also created the Harry Potter Chocolate Frogs, bringing to life the brands that had a big focus in the movies. Even the new sport Quidditch turned into a real thing – without flying broomsticks and balls, with more than 500 teams playing it now around the world who are members of the International Quidditch Association.
Staples/Quill.com & Dunder Mifflin Paper Company
Staples capitalized on The Office by having their Quill.com brand launch the line of inspired Dunder Mifflin Paper Company brand paper.
And this is by no means a new marketing practice.
Talkboy & Home Alone
Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin McCallister character in the 1980’s Home Alone took on New York with his Talkboy cassette recorder that allowed him to alter the audio sound playback. It was invented for the film, and then Tiger Electronics decided a year later to bring it to real life.
The Mighty Ducks & Disney
Anyone in Orange County California who loves hockey has Disney’s The Mighty Ducks to thank for the invention of their NHL team. Just like in the movie, fans were encouraged to blow duck whistles when goals were scored.
Quaker Oats & Willy Wonka
Wonka chocolate bars from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory became real thanks to The Quaker Oats Company. But what I bet you don’t know is that Quaker Oats actually funded the entire movie after buying the rights to their book – the film was their invention, and they created the Wonka bar to help promote the movie. Seriously – one of the best known and kid-favorite films ever was entirely financed by a brand. And then Nestlé licensed Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and created an entire brand, Wonka Candy.
Post Cereal & The Flintstones
Post Cereal way back in 1971 created the line of Pebbles Cereal inspired by The Flintstones. This also included the original Cocoa Pebbles and Fruity Pebbles, as well as the later introduced Cupcake Pebbles and Marshmallow Pebbles in 2010.
Vintage Wine Estates & Game Of Thrones
Leveraging the unbelievable success of HBO series Game Of Thrones, Vintage Wine Estates and HBO Licensing and Retail teamed up to provide their fan base with a purchasable takeaway from the series by unveiling four main wines built to match the strength the characters and the terrain of their kingdoms.
B. Nectar Meadery & American Gods
Inspired by the fantasy drama TV show “American Gods” B. Nectar Meadery out of Ferndale partnered with the series to create a new line of meads, ciders, and beers – all heavily branded after the Starz cable network show. According to their website, they are to be “sweeter, smoother, stranger…the drink of heroes. The drink of gods.” And mead directly plays into the content of what happened on screen, as there is a very important agreement between two main characters where they use three shots of mead to seal their ominous pact. This partnership was driven by the show producers, who wanted to capitalize on their fans’ interest in mead, and reached out to B. Nektar, and created “Believe” a limited edition mead distributed through the brand’s already established global base in 25 states and locations in Europe and Asia.
Launching Brands From The Content They First Appear In
And then there is the opportunity for brands to actually work with a production to feature a new brand line inside the content, and then launch it in real life. Now, this doesn’t exactly happen very often. And in fact, is extremely rare. But it can happen, and brands can actively seek out the opportunity as well. Case in point, when the original Kingsman: The Secret Service premiered in 2014, it became a huge surprise hit and an instant cult favorite. And the campy sequel added top names like Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore and even Elton John to their cast – and was a blockbuster success, with each film having a box office of over $410 million dollars. But what was most interesting about the film wasn’t its action packed cinematography – but how Old Forester launched a new line of bourbon, called Statesman.
Old Forester, a distillery out of Kentucky that makes award-winning bourbon, teamed up with the film to release a "Statesman" themed bourbon. Because the bourbon was made particularly for the film, it also lends an organic nature to the placement that may not be present with other brands. Their stories are part of each other and that makes a difference to viewers. And the exposure was absolutely extreme – it played a central role to the entire film!
The partnership with Old Forester was a natural, as it was an authentic fit, since the year 1919 played a prominent role in the film, and the producers wanted to work with a bourbon brand that actually existed then – which Old Forester did.
So Next Steps…
So why does this strategy that allows a brand's marketing to be intertwined with the film's work so well? Because each help market the other – increasing eyeballs and potential box office profit as well as product purchase. Film productions also love integrations like this because not only do they help market the movie, it helps them out with props and authenticity.
Are you interested in integrating product placement into your entertainment marketing mix, but simply don’t know where to start? Check out a few of these blogs on the subject...
- May The Branding Force Be With You - Brands Leverage Star Wars
- A Beacon Of Hope A Case Study On Location-Based Marketing
- Brand Partnerships Leverage Star Wars The Force Awakens Infographic
- How Millennials Buy And What That Means For Your Brand
There is so much more to product placement than you may think, and we provide a really great in-depth guide in our Product Placement & Promotions 101 ebook which you can download from our website’s content library below!