Do the Dew: Product Placement Gone Wrong

For some odd reason, Mission Istanbul, a Bollywood flick released in 2008 came to my mind and as I thought about the film, I realized about the only thing I remembered from this movie was a very poor botched attempt at product placement of Mountain Dew. Come to think of it maybe it wasn’t all that much of a failure if I can still recall the brand and the movie but I am quite certain this was not the effect that the brand was going after-memorably forgettable. Just had to try the oxymoron 🙂 I would suggest you take a look at what I am talking about before reading further. While I couldn’t find the isolated clip of the unfortunate sequence here is the link to the full movie on YouTube and the time code: 1:15:30 where the chase between the good guys and the bad guys is continuing that culminates with the three ball busting protagonists stopping in the middle of nowhere (Yeah totally believable! As gun-toting blood thirsty terrorists are following you, taking a break, oh yeah, that’s the sign of ultimate machismo! Yeah totally believable) to crack open, you guessed it, cool refreshing cans of Mountain Dew. Ahhh! The taste of victory or something of the ilk to reflect the Hindi tagline transliterated in English “Dar Ke Aage Jeet Hai”, which roughly means “Fear precedes victory”.  

Mountain Dew launched in early 2003 and according to this study by 2007 was falling behind Sprite and an indigenous brand Limca and was just marginally ahead of yet another Indian juice brand Frooti. Mountain Dew’s positioning has been to associate the brand with adventure and keeping true to it, the brand created several ad campaigns that typically featured young men participating in extreme sport. The ads clearly did not resonate with the target demographic of young males between the ages 16 and 25. Moreover, the focus on extreme sports was not relatable to the target market in India where the concept adventure sport was still nascent. And hence, the repositioning to reflect the tagline.

But, this branded integration was a business blunder, in my opinion. The movie clearly failed in a seamless integration with the story. And it probably alienated the urban premium audience in the target demographic. It made the brand look like a joke. Give credit to audiences’ intelligence; my gosh, this was too juvenile for an established brand such as Mountain Dew. I guess this is what happens when brand managers eager to associate with the power and reach of Bollywood can be blinded into pretending success in the face of disaster, like in the story Emperor’s New Clothes. This is among the worst product placements that I can think of. What do you have to say about that Mountain Dew? This one association makes me think of the brand as juvenile and pretentious not as amazing, fearless, conquering all odds. Due diligence is required at every step by both the creative agency and the brand mangers to ensure the hard earned brand image does not become a mockery at the hands of inept, pedestrian and so called creative geniuses in the garb of a director shoving down thoughtless, insulting garbage masquerading as content. What a waste of time and money! Well, lessons must be learned and even if the think tanks behind this epic failure haven’t, it has been an eye-opening case study to me of what not to do.

Do not be blitzkrieged by cool-sounding, hipster looking, pretend creative geniuses
Do not put the brand ahead of the consumers, the consumers always come first. Do unto other as you would have others do unto you.
Do not think glamour can overshadow poorly executed content.
Do not think audiences are stupid to believe anything that is put before them
Do not misjudge the power of memory and the social media, which can keep such lemons alive in the infinite digital realm
Do not be afraid to accept the blunder. Mistakes will happen, we understand
Do not fix what ain’t broken, why product placement on an inferior vehicle such as Mission Istanbul when you have success with powerful ads? What was the success metric of this branded integration? I couldn’t find much information, but that could be purely because it has been almost three years since the debacle.

Did I do the dew, you ask? Oh sure I did, but I cooled off after the mission went bust. 🙂