LG is turning to comic-book character Iron Man to launch one of its most aggressive U.S. pushes, a TV, cinema and mobile-text-messaging campaign that breaks today to back its featured position in the upcoming movie from Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures.
Iron Man's alter ego, the wealthy industrialist and genius inventor Tony Stark, uses an LG phone to save the day in the action flick, which opens May 2.
Though LG phones appear throughout the film, the South Korean electronics maker is producing only a limited number of "Iron Man" phones, specifically a $2,000 model plated with 18-karat gold. None will be for sale, but LG is giving the phone to publishers to use as prizes in magazine promotions and other sweepstakes. (A separate LG-backed promotion using text messaging and featured at some 5,000 independent retailers will have as its grand prize not the "Iron Man" phone, but LG kitchen appliances, a navigation system, a 42-inch LCD TV and a selection of LG phones already on the market.)
"The movie is exactly what LG is about, bettering humanity through technology," said Ehtisham Rabbani, VP-product strategy and marketing, LG Mobile, whose favorite part of the movie is when Iron Man, cut off from society, uses his LG 9400 to save the day.
And maybe "Iron Man" will save the day for LG as well. LG, now five years in the U.S. market, wants to move its brand from a niche player to one with more mass appeal. It also would like to steal some of the thunder from the iPhone, which has dominated the handset conversation for more than a year, particularly among that small but important demographic, the young male influencer group, aka gadget gurus.
"Those iPhone consumers have been up for grabs since the iPhone was launched," Mr. Rabbani said.
'A natural extension'
LG's move into the Madison & Vine space didn't come about through the usual channels. Mr. Rabbani said LG was showing off its line of Shine phones at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show -- the one which was hijacked by Steve Jobs with his announcement in San Francisco about the iPhone -- when Russell Bobbitt, prop master for "Iron Man," took a shine to the LG lineup. "Iron Man" was a story "with a natural extension of the brand," said Mr. Rabbani, adding that he typically is skeptical of the value of movie product placements.
LG's marketing push behind its "Iron Man" connection will include 30-second TV spots, as well 30- and 60-second versions of the same spots in cinemas, and print, online, out of home and retail. A website, insidethesuit.com, shows off LG phones as if seen from inside the Iron Man suit.
Brand Buzz is the marketer's ad agency. MindShare handles media buying. Spending behind the "Iron Man" push was not disclosed.
LG's marketing push also is an example of how cellphone manufacturers, as a result of the iPhone's success, have come to realize they can buck the conventional marketing system for handsets in the U.S. Device manufacturers traditionally turn much of their marketing dollars over to the carriers, which in turn use the money to both discount the phones to consumers and to market service offers. The system often is unsatisfactory to the phone manufacturers, which have found their devices discounted to $99 or less. The iPhone, in contrast, has maintained its high price point as Apple has controlled both the carrier's and its own advertising for the product.