Magazine article Variety

A Superhero's Welcome

Magazine article Variety

A Superhero's Welcome

Article excerpt


Chinese electronics firm TCL is turning to Iron Man for an introduction to the U.S. market

If done well, a promotional partnership with a major summer movie should spotlight a company's products - in most cases, cars, clothes and junk food. It worked for Aston Martin and James Bond, Ray-Ban and Men in Blacky Chevy's Cámaro and Transformers.

Now TCL is looking for the same halo effect next month from a tie-in with Marvel Studios' Iron Man 3.

Tne Chinese electronics manufacturer - the initials stand for The Creative Life - is showing off its, well, creative side as it looks to compete against better-known rivals like Sony, Samsung and LG, with flatscreen TVs and cellphones aimed at the budget-conscious.

After brokering a $5 million, 10-year pact in January to have its brand name replace Grauman's as the proprietary name of the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, TCL believes high-profile tie-ins with tentpoles will get its moniker in front of consumers around the globe.

As a hardware maker, TCL isn't new to the U.S., but its initials are virtually unknown to shoppers. With products previously sold under the Alcatel and RCA brand names Stateside, TCL is now looking to build a self-branded business. The company sees the U.S. as its next big market, and believes films like Iron Man 3 represent the first steps toward planting its flag here.

"An image of a TCL television in a globally distributed film translates well across all languages and geographies," according to Michelle Mao, president of TCL USA. "With a global company such as ours, it is important to leverage assets with worldwide applicability."

Given the rabid attention Marvel's superheroes command, pairing up with Iron Man might not be a bad move, espedaily as the company seeks the attention of younger shoppers.

But then what?

TCL's devices aren't readily available inside most big-box retailers like Target, Walmart or Best Buy. Instead, it relies on smaller retailers like Nebraska Furniture Mart, Vann's or e-tailers Amazon and Costco to sell its wares.

And while its smartphones and Ultra HD China Star 3D TV will be seen in Iron Man 3, you'll have to squint to notice them; on film, TCL's white-lettered logo struggles to stand out, especially to consumers unfamiliar with the brand.

The company may want to consider embracing a flashier symbol if it wants to build buzz - the way Coldstone Creamery embraced a brighter logo and redesigned its packaging when it started growing its product placement deals nearly a decade ago. …

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