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Creative Product Placement Strategies that Appeared in K-dramas

In the wake of Covid-19 we see Korea is one of very few countries in the world where production is back on, many global brands are utilizing this perfect marketing opportunity to promote their brands in the production planning stage.

Source: SBS /The King: Eternal Monarch.

With so many luxury brand events cancelled this year due to Covid-19, Many high-end brands, from Montblanc to Ferragamo, have associated themselves with K-drama to promote their brands and such moves have proven to pay off. Well it is not considered as a new phenomenon, like we saw in “My Love from the Star”, Jimmy Choos shoes sold out in Asia days after appearing in the show, however we see PPL marketing strategies are likely to be increasingly relevant.

Source: KBS Descendants of the Sun (left) SBS /My Love from the Star (right)

Korean hit TV show Descendants of the Sun (DOTS), a romance starring Song Joong Ki and Song Hye Kyo, received immense popularity both locally and internationally. And soon in this month, there will be a Phillipine adaptation to premiere on Netflix.

How has the series helped brands?

Riding on the popularity of the show, we can see some global brands have definitely received a boost in the brand awareness and spike in sales. Brands that are associated with the series have reported a rise in sales following the placements. For instance, Subway and Laneige said they have seen a rise in sales revenue and brand awareness as the show took off.

In a statement to Marketing, Doreen Chia, brand manager of Laneige Singapore, shared the positive impact the Korean drama had on their brand awareness and products, “We have seen a spike in sales for the colours of the Laneige Two Tone Lip Bars featured in the show and have seen an increase in the number of visitors on the brand website.”

The slick embedded marketing has translated into boosting sales and expanding their customer base to reach those who were seldom aware of its products. Especially, for popular hits like DOTS, a spillover effect to the rest of the Asian countries is also noteworthy.

Savvy Korean Audiences

As many Korean audiences are to be known savvy and sensitive to poor attempts at product placement. That means they will turn their backs on dramas immediately if they spot excessive amounts of product placements which tend to ruin the overall storytelling. As a result, many brands are taking extra caution on exploring an integrated approach with Korean dramas, such as looking at more organic spots to insert their product line.

Although the association with a wildly successful Korean drama like DOTS and its artists has definitely given a boost in the brand awareness as we are seeing an increase in online searches and an uplift in the traffic. However, PPL can also be aesthetically jarring while paying off for the brand in sales and brand recognition. In China, we also spot the PPL efforts have also buoyed luxury brands in sales, however the attempts have also been known to overload sometimes. Last summer, Chinese drama “Return the World to You” launched with more than 120 design labels which had drawn criticism.

Creative PPL that are not intrusive, rather intriguing!

Source: Paris baguette

When ads are considered intrusive and interrupt the viewing experience, it can be counterproductive for the brand. However, it also can be very successful. If we look into the PPL of ‘Bullanseo Barkery’ which features in the show Mr. Sunshine, the volume of searches for the Bakery brand dramatically increased on the main portal site. In short, the name Bullanseo Bakery is actually fictional. You might wonder: How can a made-up brand have a connection with an existing, real-life brand? In fact, Korean bakery and café franchise Paris Baguette came up with the pretend brand so it could feature in Mr. Sunshine more naturally. Taking the fact that the drama is set in the early 20th Century into consideration, it would have looked odd to have the characters visiting a store called Paris Baguette. Therefore, they used the word ‘Bullanseo’, an old fashioned version of Paris in the show. Instead of using their real brand name, Paris Baguette smartly invented a more plausible name to fit in with the time and context of the show.

K-dramas have proved to have a wide reach, with audiences and fans not only in Korea but all over Asia. However, it is required for brands to study every aspect of each drama carefully to measure potential success and also have celebrities and storylines that are aligned with the brand’s value.