While everyone else in Japan seems to be wasting their money on left handed guitars that they'll probably never learn to play right, I've been hit by K-On
's subtle brilliant marketing tactics with something else.
Now, to be fair I was already in the market for a pair of high-tier
headphones before I saw this episode thanks to a friend of mine, but
this short little scene certainly hit me like an AMRAAM missile. (On a sidenote, I'm still in the market shopping around for a pair... I have no clue if I want AKG-K701/702s, Grado SR80/225is, or Sennheiser HD650s or what....there's too many choices!....and may I say listening to the Gundam X opening "Dreams" on Alessandro MS2's is akin to Kamina giving you his sunglasses personally)
In any case, this brings me to a point I've been wanting to address for a while: Product Placement in anime.
Since anime fans are probably one of the easiest crowds to market to, I wanted to go into an analysis of tactics various shows and series have done, and explored what works particularly well and what does not.
I'll continue using my first example of K-On and move from there. Here we have one of the flagship female characters of a popular Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) series who could arguably fall into the same crowd of fans as past characters like Tomoyo Sakagami
, Kyou Fujibayashi
, and Kagami Hiiragi
. This by itself places her in a very prime position for product placement since she has her own established fanbase that is even pulling from older fanbases. Some may argue the moe-factor of a character may improve the marketing potential of a character, but if you look even at other past KyoAni characters that's not necessarily true (I still have yet to hear of Dangos making a huge comeback or selling amazingly well).
Aside from the character, another important factor is the method of presentation. Continuing with Mio
's example, arguably the best method of presentation is going for a subtle approach. Subtle enough that the audience can still recognize what it is, yet not so subtle that they don't notice or can't make it out. In this case Mio's AKG-K701 example probably wouldn't not be considered a good instance since only audiophiles would be able to recognize them, yet at the same time, this can be a good thing because then you are marketing at a target audience who already has some expressed interest, though you could ultimately argue either way.
An example that I believe portrays an excellent mix of subtlety, character potential, and even a little something more would be from the first Kara no Kyoukai film, Kara no Kyoukai: Overlooking View
. At first the film opens up with two characters that newcomers to the series probably have no clue who they are whatsoever, and the male lead tells the female lead Shiki Ryougi that he bought her Strawberry Haagen Dazs before putting it away in her fridge.
"Sutorawberi Haagenu Datsu dayo!"
That by itself wouldn't matter at all and I would consider that an absolutely failed product placement attempt if it weren't for the second part.
Later in the same film, Shiki (who by then has established herself as at least
a fairly interesting character) feels depressed and goes into the fridge to eat one of the halfpints. What results could possibly be considered perhaps one of the most brilliant scenes of marketing I have every laid eyes on. Since a fight that happened earlier in the film caused her mechanical left arm to need repairs, the scene shows her struggling with and eating it entirely with one hand for about 30 seconds. The spectacle in of itself is probably a quarter of the reason many people consider Shiki to be moe, but regardless, the brilliance of the tactic in this situation lies within using the product itself
in a development scene of a character.
Not only that, but this scene made me really hungry...
In addition, by now the viewer is more familiar with the characters, and so if they remember (or later rewatch it) the opening scene using the "strawberry's belong to the rose family" and poetically relating it to Shiki greater reinforces a certain ambiance, almost like a "classy" nature to preferring Haagen Dazs over some other brand.
Now, several films later we are brought to the fifth Kara no Kyoukai film, Kara no Kyoukai: Paradox Spiral
. Unfortunately with this film (-as awesome as everything else was-) the marketing approach they utilized was drastically shifted. Subtlety was thrown out the window, as was just about any sense of class with it.
a little "in-your-face"?
If I didn't know better I'd almost assume the production staff was intentionally trying to reverse their previous marketing success, as if the Haagen Dazs company threw a hissy fit at the ufotable production crew or something to that effect. The blatant over-selling radiance of it all was by far most evident through the "sink full of empty containers" scene. Portrayed in such an excessive and borderline disgusting level, it's hard to tell whether the animators were trying to make a joke to the viewer or not. On top of that, the fact that a new (and somewhat unkempt) male character is the one this time shown eating the ice cream regularly, they effectively removed all of the original methods from the first movie that made Haagen Dazs seem "professional" or "classy".
For my last example (and probably one of the most famous), I'm going to use Code Geass
and it's Pizza Hut obsession.
If Paradox Spiral was beating a person upside the head with a club, then Code Geass would be punching them with a mobile suit (a fitting analogy, seeing as this IS Sunrise we're talking about). The absolutely blatant advertising and showcasing all throughout the series showed very little professional marketing taste. Using a female lead like C.C.
was probably the only aspect they managed to get right, but the absolutely ridiculous exhibitionism of Pizza Hut pizza in every scene possible came across as distasteful. When every scene showing C.C. eating has her with greasy cheese hanging off her lips, that's not really a good thing. I could delve into it further, but just about anyone who has scene the show or heard the pizza hut jokes following in it's wake probably understands well enough already.
Ultimately it seems there three important things to keep in mind for effective product marketing in anime: Subtelty, the character representing/using it, and the method of using it in the scene. Further examples anyone would like to pont out are very welcome in the comments, as are thoughts and other analytical opinions.