The Psychology of Product Placement and Brand Integration


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Back To Basics

If you’ve found us here, you’re most likely familiar with product placement and brand integration, but just in case, they’re both considered forms of advertising that involve the integration of branded products or services into the content of media, such as movies, TV shows, video games, and music videos. It's a common practice in the entertainment industry, and for good reason: it works.

They have proven to be an effective way for brands to reach consumers in a subtle and non-intrusive way that is not skippable like a commercial is. In this blog, Hollywood Branded will delve into the psychology of product placement and explore the cognitive processes that make viewers more receptive to this form of advertising.

Psychology of Product Placement Blog

Now, What is it?

First, let's define what we mean by product placement and brand integration. Both are ways of including branded products or services in the content of media. The only difference is that product placement is secured using trade of goods and services only – product gifted or lent to set to help production tell a more realistic story (thanks to the use of real brands) and to help offset productions costs. Brand integration is when the placement is paid for by the brand. The goal of both is the same: organic exposure within media content to increase brand awareness and create positive associations between the brand and the viewer. For example, a character in a TV show might drink a certain brand of soda, or a car brand might be prominently featured in a movie scene. These could be an example of either product placement or brand integration. For the sake of this blog, we’ll be referring to both as product placement as the intent of both is exactly the same – just different methods of getting there.

DVR-Proof Content

One of the reasons why product placement and brand integration are so effective is that it's a form of non-traditional advertising. Traditional advertising, such as commercials or banner ads, is often seen as intrusive, annoying, easily skippable thanks for DVR’s, and in some cases non-existent thanks to streaming services. In contrast, with product placement and brand integrations, the brands are integrated seamlessly into the content of the media, making it less likely to be perceived as advertising. This creates a positive association between the brand and the viewer, as the viewer is not being interrupted or annoyed by the advertising.

Tapping Into Viewers' Subconscious 

Another reason why product placement is effective is that it taps into the viewer's emotions and subconscious. Our brains are wired to respond to certain stimuli in a subconscious way, and product placement is designed to tap into these subconscious processes. For example, if a character in a TV show is drinking a certain brand of water, the viewer is more likely to associate that brand with positive emotions, such as happiness or relaxation. This creates a positive association between the brand and the viewer, which can increase the viewer's likelihood of purchasing the product in the future. Ironically, we see this with horror films in particular where viewers latch on to familiar, safe things like a Dunkin Donuts coffee cup, when spending the remaining two hours being scared silly.  


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Brand Validation

Product placement also works because it's a form of social proof. Social proof is the psychological phenomenon where people are more likely to follow the actions of others. If a character in a TV show is using a certain brand of smartphone, for example, viewers are more likely to perceive that brand as popular, desirable, and legitimate. This creates a positive association between the brand and the viewer, as the viewer wants to be part of the "in crowd." At our agency we call this Hollywood’s stamp of approval. They’re offered products all the time, and it’s our job to make sure they understand that with our clients, they’re getting the best of the best.

Leaving An Impression

In addition to these psychological factors, product placement also works because it's memorable. The human brain is wired to remember visual and auditory stimuli, and product placement is designed to be unforgettable. For example, if a car brand is featured prominently in a movie scene, viewers are more likely to remember that brand than if they saw a commercial for the same brand. This creates a lasting impression in the viewer's mind, which can increase the likelihood of future purchases. And this goal of memorability is only compounded when brands take their placements and run co-promotional partnerships with the content. This is when brands leverage their media (commercials, website, social posts, etc.) to help co-promote the release of a film or series, utilizing their placement in the commercial content. Think of partnerships like Heineken and James Bond or Lexus and Black Panther.

Heineken_James Bond

James Bond and Heineken. Courtesy: Heineken


Black Panther on the LC 500. Courtesy: Lexus

Quality Over Quantity

It's important to note that not all product placement is created equal. In order for the practice to be effective, it needs to be tasteful and integrated seamlessly into the content of the media. If it’s too obvious or intrusive, viewers may perceive it as advertising and reject it. This is why product placement is often carefully curated and strategically placed in media. It’s a very delicate balance between the brand and the producers, with our agency in between helping to find the middle ground. It’s that sweet spot of providing enough exposure for the brand without tainting the content of the media.

The Beauty Of The Balance

Ultimately, the psychology of product placement is complex and multi-faceted. Product placement and brand integration work because they’re a form of non-traditional advertising that taps into the viewer's emotions, subconscious, and desire for social proof. It's also memorable, creating a lasting impression in the viewer's mind. However, it's important for product placement to be subtle and integrated seamlessly into the content of the media in order to be effective. If it’s not, both the brand and the content will suffer. Understanding the psychology of product placement can help brands create more effective marketing strategies and connect with consumers in a more meaningful way. This delicate balance is what our agency thrives on!

Eager To Learn More?

If this blog left you eager to learn more, we got you covered! Here're some more blogs that provide additional insight and examples into this practice.

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