From Product Placement to Branded Entertainment

Hotels Finding New Ways to Cut Through the Clutter

By Simon Hudson Endowed Chair in Tourism & Hospitality, University of South Carolina | November 02, 2014

Product placement is the insertion of brand logos or branded merchandise into movies and television shows. Since television viewers have a tendency – and now the technology – to zip through or avoid commercials, product placement has become increasingly popular. Tourism and hospitality marketers have been quick to take advantage of this growing trend. British Airways was one of the first companies to be endorsed by James Bond in his movies, and Virgin paid a large amount for a promotional tie-in with the 1999 film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Destinations, too, have begun to see product placement as an opportunity to gain exposure. Many are keen to persuade producers to make films, television series or commercials in their country or region.

Branded entertainment on the other hand is a relatively new term to describe a more contemporary, sophisticated use of product placement, and can been defined as the integration of advertising into entertainment content, whereby brands are embedded into story-lines of a film, television program, or other entertainment medium. The term has been widely used by the advertising industry for some time, and usually involves co-creation and collaboration between entertainment, media and brands. Examples of brands creating entertainment are Coca-Cola, BMW, and Ford, who have all adopted the role of program producer.

According to a recent survey by the Custom Content Council, branded entertainment is a $44 billion business, with the pace of change and innovation accelerating. It has been suggested that the rise of branded entertainment within contemporary media culture marks a fundamental shift from intrusive advertising pushed at uninterested audiences, to advertising of such merit that the audience actively seeks it out.

Rather than focusing on a sales-driven message, key to the short-term economic metrics of conventional advertising, branded entertainment has the ability to build long-term relationships with consumers, deepening brand loyalty among targeted groups. Successful branded entertainment does not mean infusing important product messages with appealing images. It is more about connecting and developing an emotional appeal.

There has been a fair amount written about product placement, but there are subtle differences between product placement and branded entertainment. These differences can be illustrated by way of a continuum that expresses the level of brand integration with the storyline or plot (see Figure 1). At one end of the continuum with no brand integration, there is passive product placement, such as the prominent depiction of the Coca Cola name in the program American Idol. Such placements are less effective than other types of placement. At the other end of the continuum, the product is integrated into the storyline for the program or film, a strategy that can be much more effective.

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Coming up in January 2019...

Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.