Walking through Target the other day, I started seeing giant “Hulk footprints” as I got closer to the back of the store. I knew they’d lead me to the toy section, and to an Avengers merchandise display, but I followed them anyway. Why? Because it’s just as fun for grownups to Hulk-stomp their way through a store as it is for kids.
When I brought it up at dinner that night, my friends were mixed. Many have kids, so they are largely against the glitz and glamour that encourages their kids to whine and beg for yet more toys, when they don’t play with the ones they have. And don’t get them started on toys branded as collectibles – that brings up stories of the Beanie Babies craze in the 80s and 90s and how spectacularly low in value those toys are now (one person even did a stint as a Beanie Baby show bouncer – the moms and grandmas would physically fight over the toys).
The conversation segued into movie product placements, and into movies that seem entirely sponsored by one entity, regardless of if that’s true or not (think You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks). This group of people, none of whom are marketers, have become jaded by so much advertising being inserted directly into their lives. They miss the days when advertising and marketing seemed more apart from the tools they used, the places the visited and the media they consumed. They described the feeling of their daily lives as being more “jangly” and “jarring” with “less room to breathe”.
Everyone agreed it was smart for Rovio to garner so many merchandise deals and product placements for their Angry Birds franchise, including a movie with a matching branded game edition - Rio. They also thought product placements in stores like Target that encouraged participation, like the Hulk footprints, were a whimsical and fun way to get a marketing message across, providing they didn’t cross that line from fun to jarring and intrusive. Crossing that line erodes trust. That erosion of trust was a huge topic (and will be it’s own blog post, this one is just about the fun you can have with creative marketing).
What are some of your favorite product placement campaigns that you’ve seen lately? I think the marketing around the Avengers has been my favorite recently, but then, I am partial to super heroes. What’s encouraged you to play?