Morgan Spurlock is better at branding than his sponsors.


So this is the conversation at home about "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold."

"I am going to relax tonight. Nobody bother me. I rented a movie."

"Why are you getting a movie during a weeknight?"

"I need to relax."

"Well what did you get?"

"The branding movie - the one we read about in Fast Company. 'The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.'"

"More marketing? That's relaxing?"

I go out of the room to watch my marketing movie. As soon as I put it on I am in complete heaven. This is an awesome show about product placement - a combination of marketing, branding and sociology. I cannot believe that anyone actually did this. I am laughing, and learning and - haha! Relaxed.

Very honestly - I don't see this as a movie with mass appeal at all. Most people wouldn't find it entertaining. So if I were a sponsor, I'd consider it charity to contribute, not really a commercial benefit. Just look at my family. They absolutely did not want to watch...heck no.

That said, if you have any interest in marketing whatsoever, or if you teach it, watching this movie is essential to understanding branding nowadays. Not in the way that you might think - not for the purpose of learning about product placement - but to learn about what gives a brand oomph, and credibility, and how most companies totally shoot themselves in the foot in these areas.

The movie's sponsor is Pom Wonderful. I give Lynda Resnick, credit for having the vision to participate - undoubtedly it generated lots of street credibility for the brand. But unfortunately she misses a huge opportunity to let Spurlock tell the Pom story his way. And so she forces him to focus on the "purity" of the juice. She's in love with the product, literally drinking the Kool-Aid...and ultimately the way he promotes it, with a cheesy graphic comparison of Pom versus competitors, is boring and forgettable. 

On the other hand the shoe brand Merrell seems to give him much more leeway. When Spurlock interviews consumer advocate Ralph Nader, and Nader warns him about the danger of losing his reputation, and then Spurlock turns on Nader to hawk Merrell's arch support or whatever, that is absolutely priceless filmmaking. It is Spurlock at his best - simultaneously falling for the pitch, and self-conscious about the fact that he is pitching. Just like he did in "Supersize Me" - showing us how McDonald's food is at completely disgusting, and completely addictive, at the same time. You don't walk away in love with the product, but it is on your mind and you associate it with a credible filmmaker - and that is the goal of brand-centric product placement.

"The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" is brilliant in a similar way to "Borat." The storyteller worms his way into a world, pretending to be an interested and engaged guest, but he is really making fun of them. The trick for the brands involved in these kinds of projects, or in any product placement, is to have a sense of humor about themselves - to have the ability to not be so in love with the product. To step away and be objective.

There is a funny moment in the movie when Spurlock meets with Ban deodorant. He asks the Ban representatives what their brand is really all about. The group appears to be stunned by this question. They have great packaging and an interesting product that you could really play up. But they don't have any idea what their brand is! One lady says, "It's about superior technology." Spurlock replies, "Yeah but that's not something you really want to put in your armpit." Hysterical! You can't write a script like that.

Perhaps the brand that did best in this movie, to my mind, was Sheetz, the gas station/convenience store brand. When Spurlock meets with their executives, they get it immediately. He flatters them and one of the executives replies to the effect that he knows Spurlock is full of it, "blowing smoke up my ***." But he laughs. It's a joke. Sheetz is part of it. And they love every second of it.

If you have the time, watch "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold." It's completely worth it. 

Have a great day everyone, and good luck!


Image source here


Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal is an author, independent brand researcher, and adjunct marketing professor with 20 years of varied experience. An avid researcher and prolific, creative writer, Dr. Blumenthal's interests span communication, marketing, qualitative media content analysis, political rhetoric, propaganda, leadership, management, organizational development, and more. An engaged citizen, she has for several years worked to raise awareness around child sex trafficking and the dangers of corruption at @drdannielle on Twitter. You can find her articles at Medium, and, and she frequently answers questions on Quora. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own.