What does a man, a “real man” with the right to kill really drink? Surely, it can’t be and shouldn’t be an androgynous, premium, global beer, should it? If I’m anything to judge by, water, coffee (buckets of it) and the occasional whiskey would be the answer. But since I intermittently also enjoy a Diet Coke wearing a pink or a purple shirt, I am most certainly disqualified as the official global benchmark for what a real man is and drinks…at least according to Bruce Feirstein’s standards. Not even my unshaven chest, a rarity in today’s society, can make up for this. Diet Coke is something criminally feminine for a real man’s man. It can’t be denied.
Speaking of a real man, I recently read that James Bond has dropped Finlandia and is back on Smirnoff-fueled martinis in the new movie Casino Royale. This seems fair enough as he seemed to have developed an affinity with that brand already back in 1962 in “Dr No”. What surprised me, however, was learning that Heineken has chosen Casino Royale for product placement alongside the likes of Aston Martin. Of course, a Bond movie is likely to meet the brewing giant’s reach per dollar requirements with the intended target, but from a brand perspective I believe 007 to be potentially disharmonious with the Heineken brand given that he, whilst trying to remain relevant with values any feminist would think of as Jurassic, inevitably triggers associations of British aristocracy and conservative values. Not exactly the kind of territory Heineken wants to position itself in.
So is this particular product placement the result of a decision based purely on media reach with brand positioning on the back burner? Are companies deliberately deviating from their brand strategies because truly brand-led media placement is assumed to limit reach (and frequency)?
Is Heineken’s rationale in the Bond case simply that more exposure, albeit in the “wrong” context, is better than slightly less exposure in the “right” context (ceritus paribus)? This is different from saying that bad publicity is better than no publicity. I do preach the consistency doctrine as I fundamentally believe it leads to clarity. But I also know that the brain is mysterious place and that it doesn’t operate in the simple, predictable, controllable ways that so many of us like to believe.
I am not expecting product placements to be able to deliver a differentiating and sometimes complex brand idea merely by contextual suggestion and association. What product placement can do, however, is to hijack some desirable (and inevitable also the undesirable) attributes, associations and memories through a movie that help add to the perception of that brand. Sure….frequency in and by itself is de facto important to nurture brand salience, which neuroscience confirms. And I am not saying that Heineken is doing the wrong thing, but from a brand positioning point of view, Casino Royale doesn’t seem to be the most obvious candidate to me. But then again, I haven’t seen the movie yet. Perhaps the placement context in Casino Royale is cleverly done and different from what I think. (no….I am not expecting 007 to be sipping Heineken from a can). Let’s see when the movie comes out.