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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?

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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.

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.

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.

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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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Opinion Editorials

Facebook fights falsehoods (it’s a false flag)

(EDITORIAL) Facebook has chosen Reuters to monitor its site for false information, but what can one company really do, and why would Facebook only pick one?

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Reuters checks facebook

So Facebook has finally taken a step to making sure fake news doesn’t get spread on it’s platform. Like many a decision from them though, they haven’t been thorough with their venture.

I am a scientifically driven person, I want facts, figures, and evidence to determine what is reality. Technology is a double edged sword in this arena; sure having a camera on every device any person can hold makes it easy to film events, but deepfakes have made even video more questionable.

Many social media platforms have tried to ban deepfakes but others have actually encouraged it. “I’ll believe it when I see it” was the rally cry for the skeptical, but now it doesn’t mean anything. Altering video in realistic ways has destroyed the credibility of the medium, we have to question even what we see with our eyes.

The expansion of the internet has created a tighter communication net for all of humanity to share, but when specific groups want to sway everyone else there isn’t a lot stopping them if they shout louder than the rest.

With the use of bots, and knowing the specifics of a group you want to sway, it’s easy to spread a lie as truth. Considering how much information is known about almost any user on any social media platform, it’s easy to pick targets that don’t question what they see online.

Facebook has been the worst offender in knowing consumer data and what they do with that data. Even if you never post anything political, they know what your affiliation is. If you want to delete that information, it’s hidden in advertising customization.

Part of me is thrilled that Facebook has decided to try and stand against this spread of misinformation, but how they pursued this goal is anything but complete and foolproof.

Reuters is the news organization that Facebook has chosen to fact check the massive amount of posts, photos, and videos that show up on their platform everyday. It makes sense to grab a news organization to verify facts compared to “alternative facts”.

A big problem I have with this is that Reuters is a company, companies exist to make money. Lies sell better than truths. Ask 2007 banks how well lies sell, ask Enron how that business plan worked out, ask the actors from Game of Thrones about that last season.

Since Reuters is a company, some other bigger company could come along, buy them, and change everything, or put in people who let things slide. Even Captain America recognizes this process. “It’s run by people with agendas, and agendas change.” This could either begin pushing falsehoods into Facebook, or destroy Reuters credibility, and bite Facebook in the ass.

If some large group wants to spread misinformation, but can’t do it themselves, why wouldn’t they go after the number one place that people share information?

I really question if Reuters can handle the amount of information flowing through Facebook, remember almost a 3rd of the whole world uses Facebook. 2.45 Billion people will be checked by 25,800 employees at Reuters? I can appreciate their effort, but they will fail.

Why did Facebook only tag one company to handle this monumental task? If you know that many people are using your platform, and such a limited number of people work for the company you tasked with guarding the users, why wouldn’t you tag a dozen companies to tackle that nigh insurmountable number of users?

I think it’s because Facebook just needs that first headline “Facebook fights falsehoods”. That one line gets spread around but the rest of the story is ignored, or not thought about at all. If there is anything Facebook has learned about the spread of fake information on their platform, it’s how to spread it better.

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Opinion Editorials

Will shopping for that luxury item actually lower your quality of life?

(EDITORIAL) Want to buy yourself a pick-me-up? Have you thought of all the ramifications of that purchase? Try to avoid splurging on it.

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shopping bags

In an era of “treat-yo-self,” the urge to splurge is real. It doesn’t help that shopping – or what ends up being closer to impulse shopping – provides us with a hit of dopamine and a fleeting sense of control. Whether your life feels like it’s going downhill or you’ve just had a bad day, buying something you want (or think you want) can seem like an easy fix.

Unfortunately, it might not be so great when it comes to long-term happiness.

As you might have already guessed, purchasing new goods doesn’t fall in line with the minimalism trend that’s been sweeping the globe. Being saddled with a bunch of stuff you don’t need (and don’t even like!) is sure to make your mood dip, especially if the clutter makes it harder to concentrate. Plus, if you’ve got a real spending problem, the ache in your wallet is sure to manifest.

If that seems depressing, I’ve got even more bad news. Researchers at Harvard and Boston College have found yet another way spending can make us more unhappy in the long run: imposter syndrome. It’s that feeling you get when it seems like you’re not as good as your peers and they just haven’t caught on yet. This insecurity often arises in competitive careers, academics and, apparently, shopping.

Now, there’s one big caveat to this idea that purchasing goods will make you feel inferior: it really only applies to luxury goods. I’m talking about things like a Louis Vuitton purse, a top of the line Mercedes Benz, a cast iron skillet from Williams Sonoma (or is that one just me?). The point is, the study found that about 67% of people – regardless of their income – believed their purchase was inauthentic to their “true self.”

And this imposter syndrome even existed when the luxury items were bought on sale.

Does this mean you should avoid making a nice purchase you’ve been saving up for? Not necessarily. One researcher at Cambridge found that people were more likely to report happiness for purchases that fit their personalities. Basically, a die-hard golfer is going to enjoy a new club more than someone who bought the same golf club to try to keep up with their co-workers.

Moral of the story: maybe don’t impulse buy a fancy new Apple watch. Waiting to see if it’s something you really want can save your budget…and your overall happiness.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer got you down? Does it make your job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment without budget worries.

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better equipment, better work

Aside from bringing the boss coffee and donuts for a month before asking, what is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes. In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on StackExchange.com an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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