Sometimes It Sells When You Quit Talking

Alfred Hitchcock was one of the most eminent thriller directors of Hollywood. The way he produced suspense in his movies has been replicated repeatedly by following generations of his counterparts.

But he also acted. As a matter of fact, he made a total of 39 self-referential cameos in his movies and the audience would watch every scene closely in order to identify him; it seems like a bonus when they could spot the director’s representative silhouette among the disturbing background because Hitchcock always played trifling parts—one of the bystanders or some random guy hustling down the street. Rabid fans could reiterate every scene in which Hitchcock showed up and his audience enjoyed playing hide-and-seek with him.

Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980)

The famous silhouette of Alfred Hitchcock










The thing is, when you think about it, if Hitchcock put himself on stage all the time, or if he assigned himself normal characters that could be availably seen, what was the chance the audience would fancy his acting performance? Directors acting in their own movies was nothing novel even back then and yet Hitchcock promoted himself so well that those bland parts he played still make a topic today. What makes it so unique and so clingy to the audience? What’s been giving audiences the itch to focus on Hitchcock’s commonplace performance? The knack is “less is more”.

Alfred showed up for a few minutes, sometimes in disguise. The harder he strived to act negligibly, the more audience wanted to find him out. Not trying to promote himself too hard, the thriller director left the work to his audience and they’ve been talking about it ever since. Yes, that’s the gist of it.

Hitchcock performing in one of his movies

Silent promotion could intrigue audience/customers just as well. You just need to pick the right time, right place and right person to showcase the right product. Then, you speak no words. You glide away. Leave the efforts to the customers. They will track you down and offer to buy the product. Of course, there are certain prerequisites to this tactic. First, the product should be topnotch (in Hitchcock’s case he was a first-class director). Handbags from last season will never sell themselves through silent promotion. Second, you talk less not because you simply want to look low-key. The silence is intended for the dramatic effects. It is created to engross people and thus deliver more.

Yi-li Shuhua Milk Product Placement in Transformers III

Meters/bonwe Product Placement in Transformer III

Accompanying the entertaining scenes and generating purchase motivation at the same time, product placement in movies is one type of silent promotion. Hollywood movies now teem with scenes presenting branded products, most of which are already household names. For example, 68 brands were placed in the latest Transformers movie and these include big names such as Nokia, Nike, Mercedes-Benz, Apple, etc., making it somewhat a runway show of these market leaders. Four Chinese brands, Yi-li Shuhua Milk, Meters/bonwe, Lenovo and TCL, also wrote fat checks  to be placed in the movie and enchant especially the Chinese audience.

Michelle Obama’s Jason Wu Inaugural Gown

Jason Wu


In some cases silent promotion is off the screen. When emerging designers’ work was put on by the right person and shown in the right place at the perfect time, like during the fashion week, their name could soon be heard around the fashion world. Myriad fledgling fashion brands actually took off this way. In Jason Wu’s case, his fashion career expands at a staggering speed largely thanks to his muse, the First Lady. The moment Michelle Obama was seen in the now-well-known ivory-colored one-shouldered Jason Wu chiffon inaugural ball gown, the then 26-year-old designer’s career was destined to soar.

There are tons of other ways silent promotion could be conducted. We could always promote when we say less, but keep in mind that there are prerequisites. If your product is not a babe, the silent promotion is nothing but suicide.

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2 Responses to Sometimes It Sells When You Quit Talking

  1. xintang says:

    The author made a very good point that an unknown brand which adopts silent promotion is destined to fail. Only when the brand is famous enough for the viewers to recognise when spotting it , can the promotion effect be achieved. However, if the silent promotion is too obvious , fo example, if a certain product shows too many times in a movie, the viewers will feel annoyed instead. And we all know appearing in a blockbuster can cost so much, while the reults is unpredictale, is it still wise to use silent promotion?

    • June Xue says:

      Almost every marketing strategy will bear certain risks, I think. But yes, silent promotion is even riskier that adequate research and weighing should be conducted before jumping to the final decision.
      Products being obvious in movies could be either detrimental or beneficial to a brand and related research should be carried out. I’d like to share some more information here. In the Chinese milk brand Yili’s case, Yili is aware that the American audience will not be their target customers even though the blockbuster was made in Hollywood. They cleverly realized that this movie would hit the screen in China and a considerable number of Chinese audience could recognize the brand. When a local brand shows in an internationally well-known movie, it’s very unlikely Chinese audience will feel offended and on the contrary they might be spurred to purchase the brand in the future.