I miss Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men. There, I said it. I was curious to see how the show will unfold without him, so I tuned in to the first two episodes and still don’t really know how I feel yet about Ashton Kutcher’s new character. In any case, on the second episode of the season Kutcher’s character is shown on the phone with his soon-to-be-ex-wife and he’s working on a laptop with decals of several prominent companies such as Foursquare, Chegg, Hipmunk, etc.
When I first saw the decals, I did notice them but really thought nothing of it since putting stickers on laptops is a common practice among my friends. The media, however, is up in arms about the free publicity these brands received just because Kutcher invests in them. This got me thinking: Where’s the line between peddling interests and creative marketing when it comes to promoting brands? To make sure you’re on the right side of promotion, here are three tips on how to avoid crossing that line.
- Keep it natural. Make sure that your marketing fits in with what is already happening. On the show, Kutcher’s character is an internet billionaire so a person can rightly assume he would have an interest in the companies featured. It wasn’t out of character. Similarly, businesses should market to those who will appreciate their brand. An IT security company wouldn’t advertise in Cosmopolitan Magazine because although the ad would stand out, it wouldn’t be a natural fit with the magazine.
- Don’t ruffle feathers. As it turns out, the creator of the show and CBS were okay with Kutcher’s promotion. If a company is trying out a creative marketing idea, it’s always a good practice to be aware of laws and regulations and make sure no special permits are needed. A great idea can be brought down by upsetting those in charge and change the impression made by the efforts.
- Be subtle. In the episode, Kutcher used stickers to promote companies. He didn’t adlib the brand names into the script or point out that the stickers were there. If viewers noticed the decals, then so be it. When businesses want to move forward on a creative idea that isn’t a full on marketing campaign, they should make consumers say, “Oh!” instead of “Oh my gosh. Did that just happen?”
So what do you think? Were Kutcher’s laptop decals savvy marketing or petty peddling?