5 Recruitment Marketing Lessons from Hawaii Five-0

September 12, 2012 at 2:12 pm Leave a comment

by Kevin Hawkins

Hawaii Five-0 deserves an award for some of the most narrative-integrated, yet hit-you-over-the-head obvious, product placement advertising on TV this side of late night infomercials. Here are five things I’ve learned from the series that can be applied to recruitment marketing:

1. Make your core brand identity clear and highlight it often.

Five-0 is an action-driven police procedural, and the regular car chases, as well as the trademark McGarrett/Danno car-guements, provide ample opportunity to highlight the show’s sponsorship dollars from GM. Everyone (good guys, at least) drives a Chevy. It doesn’t matter how brutal the car chase or how rugged and dirty the terrain, the show’s ubiquitous 2010 Chevrolet Camaro 2LT Coupe (along with co-stars Traverse and Cruze) is always spotless, waxed and buffed, and ready for its close-up. It’s like an extended weekly version of the BMW “driver” mini-films that brought Clive Owen his first real exposure in the U.S. Only with Chevys. And without the A-list movie stars and directors. Otherwise—just like it.

The Chevy bowtie emblem probably gets as much screen time as the lead actors on the show.

Similarly, you should make sure your employment brand identity is in front of your prospect audience frequently, so that your company name becomes synonymous with career opportunities—just like Chevy Camaro is synonymous with Five-0-style pulse-pounding, adrenaline-rush action.

2. Show employees engaging with each other to show your culture.

A few episodes into season one, some Five-0 members revealed that they are a tech-savvy group and firmly in the Microsoft® camp. In episode 8, Daniel Dae Kim tells co-star Grace Park to look up a piece of art on her smartphone—a totally believable “real life” activity—unfortunately ruined by some off-tone branding. Dae Kim doesn’t just tell Park to look something up, he tells her, “You don’t believe me? Bing it!”

Microsoft must have been hoping that they could somehow use pop culture to raise Bing® to the status of Google® as a synonym for looking something up on the Internet. Google didn’t try to make that happen—it just happened and you can’t force it. That Grace Park then uses a Windows 7 phone to “Bing® it” didn’t help—it was like salt in the wound.

Prospects want to know what they can expect as employees on your team—an environment where everyone takes mobile technology for granted (like the Five-0 crew), or do you have a suit-and-tie environment or maybe, T-shirt and flip-flops? Is your culture more after hours, Starbucks®-fueled collaborations or relaxed morning meetings? How do your employees interact? Most of all, are you authentic or do you come across as stilted and awkward—like Dae Kim telling Park to Bing it?

3. Teach your prospects something new/give them something of value.

As the last example shows, the tough guy, tech savvy, name-dropping members of the Five-0 prefer Microsoft technology (and web platforms). But Microsoft product placement doesn’t end with attempts to create a new catch phrase. They also want to introduce you to technology and teach you how to use it. First, the introduction: The Windows® 7 phone was everywhere in episode 8. Cast members were regularly shown, in incredibly distinct close-ups, using their Windows phones and demonstrating the smartphone in use—like a video training manual. And, just in case you missed the phones in the show, a Windows phone ad was placed in just about every commercial block.

The ultimate Windows product placement, however, came from another Daniel Dae Kim/Grace Park moment. (It appears that auto product placement is primarily handled by Alex O’Loughlin (McGarrett) and Scott Caan (Danno), while tech product placements go to Dae Kim and Park). Once you begin to get the idea that Microsoft has a smartphone for sale, the Five-0 techies kick it up a notch. Daniel Dae Kim actually takes time from a crime investigation to teach Grace Park how to check her email on her Windows phone. You get step-by-step instructions, along with close-ups of the phone’s screen, showing you just how quick and easy it is to check your email on the Windows 7 phone. I get it—skillful product placement involves integrating the product into the show. Thanks, Five-0 crime-fighters. I’m headed to the store right now—now that my fear of complicated technology has been overcome!

While it’s easy to make fun of the ham-handed email lesson, the Hawaii Five-0 marketers are onto something: You want to educate your audience. Microsoft wanted to demonstrate easy-to-use technology. You might want to use case studies, white papers, blog posts or short videos to show your accomplishments, or highlight tools or resources that job seekers would find useful.

4. Show your work environment.

Hawaii Five-0’s product placement goes beyond products. The producers recognize that location is a huge part of the show’s appeal. Their local-friendly filming schedule incorporates real local destinations and businesses as part of their tropical travel guide. This does more than localize the product placement vibe on Hawaii Five-0—it roots the show in the real world. In this video clip shot at Morimoto Waikiki, we have an opportunity to see the restaurant’s location, the kitchen and dining room, prep cooks and chefs at work, the fresh seafood, and even Chef Morimoto performing karaoke. All we need to do, to produce a full-fledged recruitment video, is to pull a couple of waiters aside and ask themwhat they like most about working at Morimoto Waikiki.

5. Don’t go overboard.

Recently, the show featured a product placement scene so over the top that The New York Times described the sequence as “jarring, disruptive and insulting.” The action stops completely for what amounts to a 50-second in-show commercial, in which an overweight shrimp food truck owner (played by amateur sumo wrestler, Taylor Wily) waxes poetic about losing weight by eating Subway® sandwiches, while standing amid an array of prominent logos. “The best thing about it,” he says, “…they make it anyway you want it…It’s some serious culinary fusion.” This doesn’t even qualify as humorous. It’s just cringe-inducing dialogue designed to promote Subway. Even the actors look embarrassed to be taking part in the scene. The takeaway: Promote your brand authentically—don’t force the message where it doesn’t belong.

Kevin Hawkins
Executive Director and U.S. Army Medical Department Team Lead

Currently serving as Executive Director and U.S. Army Medical Department Team Lead for NAS Recruitment Communications, Kevin Hawkins has provided integrated marketing solutions and digital insights to a diverse roster of NAS clients spanning multiple industries. With 15 years of experience in Internet development and consulting, media planning and segmented audience targeting, Kevin approaches solutions from both a strategic and technical perspective to produce solutions and strategies that integrate Social Network Marketing, SEO/SEM, site development, mobile marketing, video development and more, with end-to-end metrics tracking performance.


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