Unlikely Promotional Marketing Lessons From 'The Circle,' Netflix's Insane Reality Show
Have you guys watched “The Circle” on Netflix? If you haven’t, it is insane. Basically they put a handful of people into one-bedroom apartments, where they interact with other contestants via a social media platform called “The Circle” without ever actually seeing anyone’s face. From there, it’s basically like a combination of “Survivor” and the “Catfish” documentary, since players can pretend to be someone they’re not.
Despite what you may think, considering this is the third time I’ve written about reality TV for this fine publication, I’m not a big reality TV guy. That said, I was instantly hooked on “The Circle” for the sheer madness of it. And between shouting at characters for making bone-headed character judgments of players who were obviously catfishing them or strategically forming fake alliances to get them out of the game, I noticed a handful of promotional products.
Unlike other Netflix shows I’ve written about, where the point of promotional products is to create a high perceived value or market yourself through brand visibility, the point of the branded products on “The Circle” was to completely immerse the players into this world. Their life was The Circle. Everything they got was thanks to The Circle.
Sometimes there were themed challenges where players received kits for creating art or costumes to wear to add to the challenge’s theme. These kits usually came in boxes branded with The Circle logo.
Occasionally, the boxes included little sodas or alcoholic beverages (if there was a reason to party), and the labels of those bottles were always replaced with Circle-branded labels.
******* after winning the $100,000 prize pic.twitter.com/FJfO5pZJbI
— The Circle on Netflix (@CircleNetflix) May 7, 2021
Contestants were also given notebooks to write down thoughts on other players, plan their strategies or just keep track of their daily lives in solitude. All of those notebooks were printed with the logo on the cover.
When contestants were given iPads to send messages back home, the Apple logos were covered in “The Circle” stickers.
And, we won’t get into any spoilers here, but during the finale, there were branded Circle balloons in the participants’ apartments, reminding them that even when they were almost done with their month-or-so of complete isolation and competitive friendship, they were still in the Circle world.
With another player gone and the finale approaching, players are gaining clarity. Any thoughts on where John's suspicions lay? 👀 pic.twitter.com/w71ZCJUHli
— The Circle on Netflix (@CircleNetflix) May 3, 2021
Now, this all sounds kind of nefarious. Obviously, promotional products are not supposed to be imposed upon the end-users like some Big Brother character to remind them they are trapped in an apartment in an unknown location, forced to compete against strangers for $100,000 in an online popularity contest. Not typically, anyway.
But there’s no denying that the goal of a good promotional campaign is brand awareness. Incorporating The Circle logo does more than just cover any other brand logos that the producers didn’t get the rights to use.
And if your customers are looking for ways to reach clients through branded games or contests, think about where you can incorporate their logo as much as possible. This can be on the prizes, entry forms and decorations wherever available on-location or sent to their homes.
The branding on “The Circle” is a very extreme case, but it shows that consistent brand identity and multiple uses on different products creates a strong brand identity. Go into another place known for its strong brand identity, even retail spaces like an Apple store or a Nike outlet, and the logo is everywhere, on much more than just the products. You are in that world, just like contestants on “The Circle” were in this branded world.