Talking brands: Brand communications from the research lab; If you can’t place your brand on the best TV show, what do you do?

favourite TV show

While watching your favourite TV show you may have noticed, with some interest, the many different brands that are talking to you without playing an advert. There is a bottle of branded water in front of the presenter. Next to it is a glass of water with a branded coaster covering it. Occasionally, the presenter picks up her tablet and you notice that it has a logo behind it. She is bespectacled with branded glasses, and you can’t help but notice that the polo shirt she is wearing has a logo on the breast pocket. Chances are that these are all advertisements than have been paid for by the respective brands.

These and many other examples represent cues that brands insert about themselves into visual media to get us thinking about them without realising it. The umbrella name for the strategy is brand or product placement. Perhaps, you are considering placing your brand in the media to get you some visibility. If you read the last edition of this column, you know that there are certain dynamics for ensuring that its benefits are realised. In that edition, the discussion was about whether such brand placements should be done with consideration for congruence – i.e. agreement between your brand’s essence and that of the show. The question was “If you have a condom brand to advertise, should you do it on Akumaa Mama Zimbi’s ‘Odo ahomaso’ which discusses relationships and sex on Adom TV, or on GTV’s Talking Point, a current-affairs show?

The answer, as provided by research titled ‘Thematic Congruency in the Context of Brand Placements: Tests of Memory and Attitude Measures’ was that:

  • if the purpose of the brand placement is to get people to remember your brand, place it on a show it shares no meaning with (your condom should go on Talking point).
  • if you seek people to think positively about your brand, then go for congruence (place your condom brand on Odo ahomaso).

But there is a twist! You see, how often you are doing the brand placement can change the equation. According to the research, at high levels of repetition, incongruent brand placements can also unleash positive brand attitudes. That means if you do the brand placement often enough, you may get people to like the brand even if it is being placed on a show with which it has no meaningful connection. You may recall my explanation for the second answer to our question – congruence generates feelings of familiarity and since people are comfortable with what they know, they come to trust the brand. The same logic can be extended to the new insight about frequency of brand placement. By repeating the incongruent brand placement often enough, you end up creating familiarity, which then lays the foundation for the positive attitudes.

So, whereas we have said that it is congruent brand placement that gets people to think positive thoughts about your brand, there can be a backdoor. If your brand placement is frequent, say every day for an extended period, you may still go for incongruence and achieve positive attitudes by taking advantage of the frequency with which the placement is done. If we go back to our question, this means your condom brand does not only belong on Odo ahomaso. Indeed, sometimes, as you would discover, sponsors of competing brands would have locked the door on yours such that the show cannot entertain your brand placement. In such instances, your bet is to move your brand placement to a different show, including ones that may not be congruent to your brand’s essence and message. As you do so, just remember to aim for repeated exposures. Feel free to place your condom brand on Talking Point, your dawadawa brand on an automobile show (provided you know your audience watches it) and your sanitary pad brand on a political talk show. So long as your budget will allow for some good level of repetition, you should be fine. Eventually, the repetition will get the audience to feel that they know the brand and once such feelings come, hopefully, they should feel more ready to accept it.

The author is a senior lecturer at the University of Ghana Department of Communication Studies ([email protected])   

PS: The full copy of the research explained in this article is accessible here and may be subject to subscription fees.




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