The title of this piece might be slightly misleading. I mean, seriously, who is the real apprentice here: Mark Burnett, the bigwig of the reality-television genre, or Home Depot
In a press release it issued, Home Depot says it believes Burnett has the magic touch when it comes to creating brand-enhancing initiatives. The company was apparently satisfied with the results it achieved with product placement in previous Burnett properties Survivor and The Apprentice. The new deal is described as "multi-program, multi-year," so executives on both sides appear pretty confident that the broadcast TV shows should bring value to both parties for a while.
Home Depot essentially wants the DNA of its image fully assimilated with Burnett's penchant for keeping viewers glued to their sets. Traditional advertising, in many ways, needs to be augmented by product placement (although commercials will never -- and should never -- go away; there will always be a need for that marketing format, as it can deliver messages in a more straightforward manner than mere placement). The best form of placement occurs when product X is clearly demonstrated solving problem Y.
That's what the press release seems to imply -- that the reality shows that will result from this venture will prove that items for sale at Home Depot (plus the services that are available) are useful solutions that can eliminate complexities homeowners endure on a daily basis. In this way, Home Depot's inventory will hopefully become a dynamic character in its own right, fueling the storytelling engine that Burnett has built up over the past several years -- which will theoretically lead to better brand equity.
Of course, all of this depends on the execution. Execution in the area of entertainment vehicles is always a crapshoot, but the risks are worth taking. Blue chip companies need to have their brands constantly reinforced in the minds of the public, lest they become stale and seen as just another commodity.
Corporate America will continue to become more deeply involved with these kinds of schemes to stay ahead of the competition. In fact, as they continue to evolve, we can probably look forward to the day when Dow companies regularly put out expensive movies in the summertime solely for promotion. Such a notion isn't farfetched in the least -- read how Willy Wonka was a promotion vehicle for a Quaker Oats candy bar, for instance.
For now, Home Depot will try to keep people away from competitors like Sears
For more articles on Home Depot, product placement, and reality television, see:
- The Giant Lumberjack Lumbers On
- Home Depot Fights Back
- TV's Passport Stamp of Approval
- Oprah's Product Placement
- Survivor's Mesmerizing Beat