How product placements can backfire

23Sep08

Last night, I watched the season premier of Heroes. Sprint is one of the corporate sponsors, and they’ve paid for some product placements in the show itself. But at one point, they crossed the line into the ridiculous. While walking around in a remote part of Africa, one character asked another if he could use his cell phone. The second character said there was no service, and exclaimed that he “should have gotten Sprint”.

I find this to be exceedingly lame. It’s no secret that Sprint has horrible customer service and has been losing subscribers like crazy. They’re certainly not known for their coverage in distant places. In other words, Sprint bought a product placement that directly contradicts the popular perception of the brand. And since they don’t provide any evidence to support their claims, Sprint shines an even greater spotlight on the faults within their product.

Product placements can be an effective part of a multi-faceted marketing campaign, especially when they show off new or interesting aspects of a product, or reinforce what people may already be inclined to believe. But if you’re using them to reverse how people feel about the product, you’d better make sure the product placement scenario includes some serious evidence to back up what you’re saying.



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