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Product placement in Blade Runner: a really big why

(OPINION EDITORIAL) If a brand places a product to encourage consumers to buy, why would a brand wish to be included into a creator’s depiction of a doom and gloom future?

blade runner

Product placement in 2017 can take many forms and fashions, but the simple presence of a brand logo noticeable on the screen has been around since at least the early 20th century. A brand may choose to pay to be depicted in popular culture to drive sales of products, just like Buster Keaton did in his 1919 film The Garage.

For example, nothing says “ET phone home” quite like the peanut butter candy Reese’s Pieces. And nothing quite says “a bleak, polluted jaunt through Los Angeles during capitalism’s implosion in the year 2049” like Coca-Cola.

Wait, what?

Coca-Cola is one of a handful of brands included in Blade Runner 2049, a lega-sequel follow up to the 1982 cult classic Blade Runner. Other brands featured similarly in one or both films include Atari, Cusinart, Pan-Am, Johnnie Walker, Polaroid, and french car manufacturer Peugeot.

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But if a brand’s inclusion in a piece of media is to create motivation to buy the product, why would a brand wish to be included into a creator’s depiction of a hopeless and destitute future?

Michael Golden, in his book Social Media Strategies for Professionals and their Firms.
discusses that the only thing that the modern brand has true control over is its “name, logo, and brand colors.”

A brand, according to Golden, in the era of social media should strive to “engage and interact with those who know [the brand] in order to maximize brand loyalty.”

Contemplating this strategy and applying it to Coca Cola’s presence in Blade Runner 2049 sheds light on the reason a brand would choose to be in a film with a negative perspective of the future of Earth.

For starters, Coca Cola is presented to be a household name, even in distressing science fiction future, implying the brand’s importance and enduring legacy.

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Another potential reason for Coca Cola’s presence in the dystopian future of Blade Runner 2049? Nostalgia.

“There’s no doubt that the brand value of Coca Cola, for instance, is in the taste buds, heads and nostalgic hearts of the public,” writes Golden in Social Media Strategies for Professionals and their Firms. Many fans of the first film will remember this brand’s presence in a film they enjoy.

Coca Cola maximizes this nostalgic connection to increase its brand value, and of course, its own bottom line.

Blade Runner 2049 may escape being another entry into “2017 reboots that use nostalgia as a marketing strategy,” but brands like Coca Cola and Atari are using it to full advantage to drive attention and sales.

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Alexandra Bohannon has a Master of Public Administration degree from University of Oklahoma with a concentration in public policy. She is currently based in Oklahoma City, working as a freelance filmmaker, writer, and podcaster. Alexandra loves playing Dungeons and Dragons and is a diehard Trekkie.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. MilesT

    November 30, 2017 at 7:23 am

    FYI: Peugeot Automobiles recently bought the car making/sales businesses of General Motors in Europe (including the Vauxhall and Opel brands). The brand is one of the oldest car brands still in operation (over 100 years), with the Lion logo referencing the founding company “Lion Motors”

    Peugeot also makes and sells cars under the Citroen brand (usually on shared platforms, including a minicar platform share with Toyota), and has legacy brands resulting from previous takeovers from Chrysler and others e.g. Talbot, Rootes, Simca. Also has a joint venture (Seyval) to manufacture light commercial vehicles with Fiat, and formerly also Iveco/Ford. Peugeot and Ford Europe also sell car diesel engines to each other, with Peugeot offering expertise in sub 2.0 litre diesel motors for small cars

    The only Peugeot cars that might be relevant to the US would be sports or design led, e.g. small convertibles (Peugeot/Citroen branded) or the Citroen “DS” design led subbrand, to compete with BMW Mini and Volkswagen New Beetle. Potentially small volumes of commercial vehicles for specialist conversion e.g. RVs.

  2. Alex

    June 4, 2018 at 12:16 am

    If someone realizes Coca-Cola and other corporations are the reason for a dystopian future while watching the movie, then they may rationalize from reverse psychology marketing that Coke must not be bad for you if they’re willing to put their brand in this movie without worrying about hurting their sales. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola is laughing at the ones who realize the ingredients in soda are terrible for your health and buying Coke will support unsustainable, intensive farming.

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