You’ve probably seen it many times before; the Coca-Cola can in the television show or the billboard in a movie scene’s background. Although it may not seem like a big deal, these companies paid thousands of dollars for those product placements and they worked

With product placement being such a prevalent marketing method, it’s important that business owners know why it’s prevalent, how to do it correctly, and what to look out for before jumping on the bandwagon. 

Why Product Placement Is Prevalent Today

According to Statista, “11.44 billion U.S. dollars would be spent on product placement in the United States in 2019 alone.” Why? Because people that see brands in their favorite television shows and movies are more likely to purchase them afterwards. It’s all about top-of-mind awareness, and product placement gives companies just that.

According to Yahoo Finance, the reason for these placements in popular shows and films is a shift in the way products are marketed to consumers. As the article elaborates, “Brands are increasing their product integrations as they start to realize that consumer behaviors have truly shifted and aren't going back...Advances in audience targeting, the understanding of the role of product integration, as well as the focus on measurement capabilities to prove ROI (return on investment), while still not comprehensive, has elevated the acceptance and pursuit of the opportunity to be part of the story."

Netflix, one of the most popular streaming networks out there, provides viewers with numerous shows containing various product placements. According to Cheatsheet, there are 139.26 million Netflix accounts worldwide. Imagine the potential of marketing a product through a show on this streaming service alone. This is exactly why product placement is so popular. Let’s take a look at ten of the best product placements in movies and television. 

1. Stranger Things: Eggos

There are countless successful product placements out there, but some of the most successful examples are those in the Netflix series, Stranger Things.

Stranger Things is an iconic science fiction show riddled with nostalgia that emulates aspects of 80s television and films. The second season’s premier alone garnered over 15 million viewers. You are sure to see at least one nostalgic product in each episode.

However, one of the most popular nostalgic products in the show are Eggos. The main character Eleven, and her obsession with Eggo waffles, actually boosted Eggo waffle sales by a +14% year-on-year increase. Furthermore, this helped the product prepare for a brand refresh which included boxes that showcase Stranger Things characters and various deals related to the show. 

2. Harold and Kumar: White Castle

An extremely prolific comedy, Harold and Kumar centers around two best friends as they travel to the nearest White Castle in hopes of trying the iconic burger chain for the first time. Along the way, the two get into multiple crazy situations. 

Although the movie only initially made $18 million in theaters, it later made over $60 million in DVDs and helped save the franchise from bankruptcy. Even to this day, the owners of the iconic chain thank this cult classic for their devoted fanbase and have chosen to branch out into other product placement endeavors. 

3. The Matrix: Nokia

In The Matrix, the Nokia 8110 can be seen multiple times. This device helps the protagonist to “fight the electronic menace” in the film and actually increased sales for Nokia for years. Even now, the brand is planning to reboot the iconic phone in hopes of boosting sales once more. 

4. Rick and Morty: Szechuan Sauce

Although Rick and Morty’s Szechuan sauce product placement was not paid for by McDonald’s, the fast-food chain significantly benefited from the promotion in the long run. When the main character of the highly popular show, Rick Sanchez, explained exactly how obsessed with the sauce he was at the beginning of season 3, people began to comb the internet for samples. Many personally messaged McDonald’s on social media begging for them to bring the sauce back. 

During the fluster, one jug of the sauce actually sold on Ebay for over $14k. This led the company to release the sauce for a limited time. However, this is where McDonald’s went wrong. Product placement has a far more substantial impact on society than we may think.

Because McDonald’s did not realize just how widespread this trend was, or how many people would come for the sauce when it was made available, nearly every store carrying the sauce was only given a limited supply. When the day finally came, fans were furious to find they had waited in four-hour lines to receive nothing. This is a great example of an amazing product placement handled poorly by the business. It also demonstrates why it is important to recognize that even with the perfect product placement campaign, you may struggle to supply this product once the demand is clear. 

5. Orange is the New Black: Flaming Hot Cheetos

The Netflix series Orange is the New Black insisted on showcasing Flaming Hot Cheetos multiple times throughout the series. One of the biggest product placements the show did was during episode 6 of the fifth season. Not only is the episode entitled “Flaming Hot Cheetos,” but the episode showcases the Cheetos as a priceless delicacy which actually led to an increase in Cheetos sales.

6. Wayne’s World: Pizza Hut

Wayne’s World is known for a lot of things, including one particular scene that marketing departments and fans simply can’t get enough of. In the scene, both Wayne and Garth take product placement to an unnatural and over-the-top level, showcasing different brands. 

Although some might consider this a product placement fail, or a diss on these brands as a whole, the truth is that these placements actually did more for the brands than serious placements ever did. Take Pizza Hut, for example, which Wayne was seen showing off while saying he would never sell out to corporate product placement culture. This scene actually increased their sales and gave them more clout for being good sports about it. 

7. Iron Man Trilogy: Audi

Throughout the entire Iron Man Trilogy, Audi vehicles and designs have played a major role. According to Forbes, “A billionaire tech genius would have the most sleek and sporty ride so rather than build one bespoke, Marvel turned to German luxury automaker Audi. Its two-seater R8 Coupé was chosen and quickly shot to fame as Stark is seen on-screen driving it to glitzy parties and air force bases.

The connection with Audi accelerated in 2010’s Iron Man 2 as an R8 Spyder features in one of the most memorable scenes where Stark makes full use of its open-top by driving down the Pacific Coast Highway with a massive life-saving structure sticking up from the passenger seat.

By the time that Iron Man 3 came around in 2013, the partnership was in top gear as auto aficionados began posting reports online about the scenes featuring Stark’s car collection which, this time, included the Audi R8 e-tron. The coverage drove traffic to the movie and Audi which is exactly what was intended.”

8. Stranger Things: Coca-Cola

That’s right, Stranger Things made this list twice! In the most recent season, the cast is seen drinking a large amount of New Coke, a failed product by Coca-Cola that was released in 1985 and discussing its flavor in major moments throughout the season. The brand intentionally revisited this rocky part of their past in hopes of a bit of modern nostalgic redemption from Stranger Things fans worldwide—and it’s working. 

9. Willy Wonka: Nestle

In the case of Willy Wonka chocolate, the product placement was reversed in a unique but important way. When the iconic film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory came out, the entire world wanted to know what a Wonka Bar tasted like. Unfortunately, Wonka Chocolate and Candy was not a real brand at the time. 

This was a perfect opportunity for one chocolate brand, Nestle, to swoop in and begin making some of the wondrous snacks the film showed, in addition to many more with the same zany qualities. Although the separate Wonka Factory entity slowed down in 2010, the Nestle brand was able to make millions off of the name before that, showcasing exactly why a brand needs to remain up-to-date with modern culture. 

10. E.T.: Reese’s Pieces

E.T., the award-winning classic film revolving around an extraterrestrial being and his human friend, has many iconic scenes that have helped to shape modern pop culture drastically. 

However, one of the most well-known scenes of all is also a massive product placement that helped one candy brand to rise in popularity seemingly overnight - E.T. eating Reese’s Pieces. What makes this placement so unique is that it is neither forced nor noticeable yet definitely gives you a subconscious desire for Reese’s Pieces after seeing it. 

One interesting part of this placement is that it was not originally intended to be Reese’s Pieces, but rather M&M’s. When M&M’s declined the offer, Reese’s Pieces took its place. This showcases a major mistake by one company and a huge win for another. 

In the end, product placement is much like an influencer campaign. It’s all about where it goes, how it’s shared, and what the response is. If you choose the wrong show with the wrong demographic, it simply won’t succeed. However, with a bit of research and a quality product, you can begin promoting your product on the silver screen and reaping the benefits in no time. 

Want to learn more about marketing and how different marketing tactics can help your business? Contact us today for a free marketing consultation!


Written by Reid Broendel

When you need something done for your digital marketing campaigns, you can count on Reid Broendel to find a way. Reid has been on the Ironmark digital marketing client services team since May of 2019. Reid holds the position of Lead Digital Marketing Specialist and brings with him a knack for content management, as well as an enthusiasm for client support, able to jump in at a moment’s notice to help clients and team members on any and all digital marketing needs. From installing tracking codes, to building out emails, to planning out content calendars, Reid is always happy to help. Reid is a graduate of Penn State University, with a B.A. in Advertising. He runs on coffee and spends all his days not in the office working next to his cats.

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