The Brand That Wasn’t There: The Impact of Product Displacement on Brand Outcomes

Kirk Kristofferson and Lea Dunn, 2018, 18-137-12

With the shift away from traditional media advertisements, many companies are faced with the new challenge of how to get their advertisement or brand in front of their target consumers. Streaming services, like Hulu, are exploring new avenues of product placement to supplement their production costs but also to appease marketers. Product placement, or the deliberate placing of brands within mass media content, is a well-established marketing tactic that benefits both brands and media. 

However, due to financial, legal, or image reasons, brands may choose not to be associated with the entertainment content. In these situations, the brand logo is removed, or “displaced” from the production either physically or digitally to adhere to copyright law, a practice the authors define as product displacement. While product displacement is a common phenomenon, no research has explored the consequences of displacement on brand outcomes and the psychological process through which displacement may be effective.


Kirk Kristofferson and Lea Dunn examine the psychological underpinnings and downstream brand consequences of product displacement. In four experiments, they find that product displacement does have downstream consequences for the actual brand. Specifically, they find that displacement can positively or negatively impact the displaced brand depending on consumers’ need-for-cognition level. They show these divergent brand consequences are driven by displacement’s effects on consumer immersion in the viewing experience, and can spill over and affect enjoyment of the overall media experience.

Put into Practice

Taken together, the results suggest that managerial decision-making for a brand’s product placement strategy is much more complex than simple financial feasibility. While a brand manager may decline a product placement opportunity because of high cost or perceived brand image concerns, these results show that the displacement of the brand in the media can negatively impact the actual brand among viewing consumers. Conversely, the results also show that for certain consumers, displacement can positively impact the actual brand. This suggests that brand managers could strategically use product displacement as a means to improve brand outcomes.

Overall, this study informs brand managers that product displacement can have downstream implications for the actual brand. It offers suggestions for how marketers can more effectively make placement versus displacement decisions depending on the expected target segment that may be attracted to certain media content, and provides insights into the psychological process consumers experience during the media experience.

Kirk Kristofferson is Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Ivey Business School, Western University, London, Ontario. Lea Dunn is Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Foster School of Business, University of Washington.


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