We’ve all heard of and experienced product placement on TV and in film. Sometimes it’s subtle, and other times it feels like someone is shouting at you with a bullhorn to go buy an Audi. In this respect, we find that SEO and product placement are similar. Content, for example, can be optimized to incorporate keywords and phrases in a subtle way, or it can be stuffed to the gills with every variation possible.

While blatant product placement and keyword stuffing may ultimately be successful, it can certainly distract from the original piece. After all, it’s hard to focus on the plot when the lead actor is loudly slurping on a Starbucks Cold Brew (kinda want one now).


We, ourselves, appreciate the more subtle approach in regards to both SEO and product placement. As proof that subtle marketing can be just as effective, we have lined up some of our favorite products in films that noticed an increase in sales following the movie’s release.

1. Reese's Pieces in "et: the extraterrestrial"

When Elliot discovers that ET loves Reese’s Pieces, he creates a trail of them to encourage the extraterrestrial to come out of hiding. The scene is touching and, while we are all absolutely thinking about the candy, we are still more interested in the emerging relationship between Elliot and ET. Reese’s saw a 65% increase in sales following the film’s release in 1989.

2. Etch-A-Sketch in "Toy Story"

This one doesn’t feel like product placement at all. Etch-a-Sketch belongs in “Toy Story” because it is, well, a toy. Whether or not Pixar intended to promote Etch-a-Sketch, the company saw a 4500% increase in sales after the film came out!

3. Hostess in "Zombieland"


In this movie, a quirk of the otherwise dark and gritty character of Tallahassee (played by Woody Harrelson) is that he loves Twinkies. He is determined to find the last remaining Twinkies on Earth. What makes this one even better is that he is crushed to discover a Hostess truck full of Sno-Balls, rather than Twinkies. It’s all Hostess, and the brand bounced back from near-bankruptcy after the film came out. While the link between the film and the company’s renaissance is not official, we think it’s not a coincidence.

4. Wayfarers in "Risky Business"

Until Tom Cruise treated us all to his pants-free dancing, Wayfarer-wearing character, Ray-ban was considering discontinuing the style. After the movie premiered, sales increased from 18,000 per year to over 360,000. We like this one because, like Elliot offering an alien some of his candy, it seems a natural part of his character development. Like many teenagers, he’s got a very specific fashion sense. It works to have an obscure style of sunglasses. Plus, it was the 80s. You literally couldn’t make a bad fashion choice since ALL of it was questionable. 

What are some of your favorite subtle (or unsubtle) product placements? Let us know in the comments! 

Serenity Digital, LLC is a digital marketing agency based in Denver, Colorado. We specialize in SEO, branding, email targeting, copywriting, webpage analysis, and more. Give us a call to see how we can help you!

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.

Skip to content