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.
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.
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.
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.