Product Placement – What Do You Think?

It’s all the rage, what with DVR’s and TiVo – to try to get your product into the set of a program/movie or used by a celeb. It’s more of a soft sell, the product is shown in context, people don’t zap through it, and you can associate your product with a hot new star or show.

Would love to hear what all of you out there think about product placement (intentional or otherwise) in general, or about such marketing opportunities.

In a story reminiscent of actors being discovered in line at the bank, Angie, one of the owners of a local Seattle online boutique The Crafty Devils, was contacted by a movie prop manager about one of her bags. The movie turned out to be the mega hit “Twilight” and the rest is history. Other examples are Eileen Shields Footwear, whose shoes made it onto the feet of Cythia Nixon in “Sex and the City“, and a Claire V. handbag featured on “Desperate Housewives.” And these are all unpaid examples. Companies can still try to pay for product placement – I even read in the WSJ that many brands like Barilla Pasta are now paying for placement in infomercials for related products (cookware).

Overall, it’s a myth that only big brands can have product placement success – and that it always has to be paid placement. More often than not, if you have some buzz going about your small biz, a prop manager somewhere might hear about you. Many small businesses are hiring PR firms that specialize in product placement or brand integration who get the hottest new finds in front of people like prop managers. Places like Hero Entertainment Marketing or Ostrow Alliances have divisions now specifically designed to help small businsses. They say that after the publicity fees, the placement can cost as little as a few free or discounted samples. And this might be even more effective than paying for the placement like the big guys do – if the prop manager thinks the product is a good fit for the character, this is much more authentic.

But if you are a small business especially….you have to leverage the exposure by promoting it yourself, because you can’t flash your URL or address up during the show. Promote “as seen in…” on your website; do a press release; take out an ad that talks about this; put up in-store signage; create postcards; contact local press, etc.

So for small or large businesses alike who offer products: as you build your 2010 marketing plans, try to include opportunities beyond traditional advertising to get your big break – whether you need to pay for the exposure itself or for a publicist. Get creative. You can also continually try to get your product on “Oprah” – and we all know the stories of what happens to small businesses when they get this little boost. If you are not sure where to start, talk to your PR firm or contact a product placement expert and see if you can pay for just an hour or two of consultation on the subject. The cash register rings may be worth the effort and expense.

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