Viral product placement — do you think it drives sales?

One of the newer trends in marketing is the development of videos (think Mentos & Diet Coke) with specific products playing a primary role.  On YouTube alone, the Mentos video was viewed over 2.2 million times.  And imagine what that number balloons to when you consider all the places the video was shared.

A more recent viral video coined "Catch" features a guy catching a pair of Ray-Ban glasses on his face.  Despite some pretty hard to believe scenarios.

That video, on YouTube alone, has been watched almost 2.5 million times.  But…does it makes you want to buy Ray-Bans?  Or does it even make you more aware of the brand?

Josh Warner, President of the Feed Company who produced the video sure hopes so.  He was the subject of an interesting Q&A on the topic.  Their home page says "200,000 videos are uploaded to YouTube and the web every day.  You might be an agency or entertainment company that’s great at making ’em but getting web videos ranked, forwarded, and featured is an art in itself.   Let us feed the monster – we know what it’s hungry for."

What do  you think? 

  • Does it sell product?
  • Does it raise brand awareness?
  • When the viewers realize its been produced as an "ad" does that change/diminish its effect?
  • Would the technique play better if it occurred naturally or doesn’t it matter?


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17 comments on “Viral product placement — do you think it drives sales?

  1. Drew,

    I think anything imaginative, striking, and “pass-along-able” will get serious attention. However, as to brand awareness – that partly depends on if the brand is central to what is happening. The Coke and Mentos thing is great because it happens with…well, Coke and Mentos. But the dark glasses could have been any company’s product – the brand wasn’t integral. In those cases, it’s a bit more work to make sure that the brand is getting its due, not just the stunt…

  2. I don’t think sheer numbers mean very much. It’s the idea embedded in the content that makes a difference.

    The Dove ‘Real Beauty’ ads had tons of views. But they went farther than just millions of eyeballs. The idea behind the ads was profound. It struck a chord. It resonated. It had the power to change.

    The Ray-Ban video might get seen by tons of people, but the connection is only on the surface. There is a serious lack of any deeper emotion to latch onto. People may enjoy it watching, but I don’t think it will spark a sunglasses-purchasing revolution any time soon.

  3. I think Steve’s on the point I was heading. There is no mention of Ray-Ban at all in this video. How many people under 30 will be familiar with that distinctive sunglass frame from the 80s…enough to make the connection.

    To me the net effect was I wanted one of those cool retro glasses again. It reminded me of Tom Cruise in Risky Business. But I would probably buy a cheap pair down on Venice Beach for $6 – 12 before I proactively look around for that brand name.

  4. Mike Sansone says:

    Maybe more important than “views” is how many times has it been linked – someone has shared it on their site or space. Or how many times has it been emailed?

    I would think the number of times shared would be more valuable (and viral) than the number of times viewed.

  5. Susan Martin says:

    I agree with other commenters, it’s the connections and what happens after the views that’s important. How many “great” ads have you’ve seen where you remember the ad, but not what it’s for?

  6. Nathan says:

    After about the 3rd “catch” I thought “fake” and hit stop.

    I think the point of connection that’s been made is pretty spot on. The dove campaign is an idea that is simple to explain, adopt, and get behind. This video does no such thing to spark that.

    If anything, I hope to see a bunch of mashups come about of people trying the same thing, having their sunglasses gouge them in the eye or smack them in the face (with minimal bodily harm resulting, of course). Those would be amusing… although i still wouldn’t buy a ray-ban (that’s what they’re called, right?).

  7. Adrian Lee says:

    The “Catch” video made me watch over and over again. Didn’t know it was about Rayban until it was announced.

    It’s brand awareness for me…

    Adrian Lee

  8. David Reich says:

    I agree with Steve’s assessment in the comments above. I also feel that, like traditional advertising or product placement in mainstream media, its success as a sales motivator will depend on several factors — entertainment value is only one, which is needed to get the video seen and passed along in the first place. But it also depends on the visibility and recognizability of the product, the relevance of the product and, as Nathan pointed out above, the authenticity of the video. If it’s an obvious fake designed just to get YouTube plays, it will have no credibility or, worse yet, it could backfire and turn people off.

  9. Well, let me put it this way. The video is on your site and you tell everyone that the sunglasses are Ray-ban. Need I say more?

  10. Steve — Hmm, an interesting point. You’re right…the sunglasses could have been anyone’s.

    Mike — viewed, shared…okay, I’ll give you that. But…does either of them translate to brand awareness or sales?


  11. Ryan — what? Are you suggesting that content and intent are important? My God man…what did they teach you at school???

    Mario — A good point. Because you and I are in the same age range — we knew the glasses. It would be interesting to test brand name recognition to see if the under 30 set would ID the glasses correctly.


  12. Susan — that’s one of my biggest beefs with advertising. We’re so busy entertaining that we forget to inform and influence.

    Nathan — yes, Ray-Ban. Made famous by the movie Risky Business. And if you go to You Tube, you will find those mashups you’d wished for!


  13. Adrian — how would you have done it different, so that the brand was the star of the show?

    David — Your points are on the money, I think. It’s probably why we have only seen a handful of these campaigns that have actually taken hold.

    Katie — Actually, yes, I think you do need to say more. 🙂 Do you believe having the video on my blog and my mentioning the brand name will actually influence sales?


  14. Adding a very simple “pop” phrase after each successful catch – You got BANNED! – would increase the brand awareness. It’s edgy, it has that negative-positive twist to the word, and it plays with half of the brand name.

  15. Steve,

    Would that have watered down the “viral” nature of it though? Or do you think because it was so far-fetched they had already crossed that barrier?


  16. Nancy,

    If you had been hired to make the video, what would you have done to link the video and the brand more closely?

    And…how would it inspire sales?


  17. Stan Bricks says:

    I’m not sure what the hold-up is… maybe they have re-thought their stance on how this is going to actually make the company any money. Or perhaps their lawyers pointed out the liability of providing agents a platform to stick their feet in their mouth. Whatever it is, it’s hardly something I’d claim as being “Well done”.

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