Product placement is a booming business for a reason: it works, even though many times we are perfectly aware of the fact that we are being manipulated. According to a survey by PQ Media, 70 percent of Americans know what it’s all about, and 80 percent of them are even influenced by it one way or the other. But what makes this type of advertisement  – thanks to Screenist, now not the privilege of big brands anymore – so efficient?

It reaches the subconscious in a particular way

How does product placement communicate with the human subconscious? It stirs up our subconscious in ways we may not even realize. Some psychologists even believe it is considered to be a subliminal message: many times we don’t even consciously process the information, yet it still affects our behavior, in this case, the consumer attitude.

via GIPHY

But even if it does occur to us that the main hero of a movie is drinking that particular soda and driving that particular car for a reason (and it even pisses us off a bit), subconsciously – psychology says: in an implicit way – we tend to associate with the positive character by transferring our positive feelings to the product they are using. We feel that we can identify with them – or the values and messages they communicate – by drinking the exact same soda and driving the exact same car. It’s perfectly normal: people with a healthy psyché are longing for positive self- identification. That is how product placement hijacks your brain.

The really striking thing about the way product placement works is that we don’t even need a positive character to identify with. Let’s just think about one of the most famous bad guys of the history of TV-shows, J.R. Ewing. Even though his attitude is clearly disturbing for most, whenever he is smiling while sipping his favorite whiskey, we are longing to be the same strong, powerful and rich he is.

But can product placement have a negative effect even if it affects us?  The way product placement works is even more complex than this: even if we have very strong negative feelings for the character and the attitude they represent (namely: we do not intend to be strong, powerful and rich “if it costs that much”), this feeling is not really transferred to the product, at least not the way positive feelings are. Based on a 2013 survey, the whiskey J.R. drank remains just a brand we happily recognize with the soothing feeling of familiarity in a store, pub or webshop later  (Zimmerman, 2013).

Whatever is familiar, we tend to like it more: even the dynamics of attraction says that we are always attracted to the potential partner who is perceived as being similar, and if we meet often enough (even before the dating phase begins), we may be even more attracted to them (Halberstadt és Pecher, 2013). The same thing applies to products, too: if we see them on a regular basis, they become familiar and we grow to like them more, meaning that we would prefer them to other, similar products. Considering that we are banner-blind and leave the room whenever an ad comes up, product placement is the best way to reach this awesome sense of familiarity. So even if we disregard the implicit process of self-identification, familiarity definitely has an effect on us, meaning that product placement comes with a dual wield in terms of efficiency.

It depends on the goal we have in mind

A survey from 2007 (Yang and Roskos-Ewoldsen) took a look at the way young people are influenced by product placement. College students had been asked to choose their favorite products, and the majority of them tended to come up with the product they just saw on the screen a few hours before. In this context, the way the product was presented didn’t matter: it was enough to see it be recognized as a favorite item.

The survey also proved that product placement may have a different effect on us based on the actual marketing goal in mind. Product placement in movies works in a different way based on what product we are planning to introduce. If we want to make a fresh brand familiar, it’s useful to give it a role in the movie, to integrate it into the storyline. However, if work with a well-known brand and want to make the preferences stronger, there is no need to dig that deep: it’s enough to show the brand in the movie, even in the background.

Not only this type of sophisticated strategy with brand integration, but product placement as a whole used to be the privilege of giant brands previously, as they were the only ones who possessed the necessary background for it in terms of synergy, budget and professional know-how. With the help of Screenist, now anyone – even small companies – has the chance to enjoy the advantages of product placement. The application helps them with a bidding system based on the perfect transparency of the blockchain technology, sending the product you see on the screen to the webshop offering the best bid.

Product placement does work: what is more, it does in a lot more sophisticated, complex way than we used to think. Screenist is there to help anyone utilize this advantage while offering the gift of impulse buying for the consumer at the same time.