Dunder Mifflin will close up shop when the "The Office" airs for a final time Thursday on NBC. But if Quill.com gets its way, the fictional paper-products company will live on for years to come -- and not just in syndication.
Quill, which is owned by Staples, has aggressive marketing plans for its line of "Dunder Mifflin" branded office products, which were first introduced in 2011 under a licensing deal with NBC. "I don't think we went into this saying this is going to be a two or three year thing," said Paul Bessinger, Quill's director of innovation. "We think his thing can stand on its own and become an evergreen brand."
The marketer's first step comes Thursday night when it will air a new ad in the markets where the fictional Dunder Mifflin operates, such as Scranton, Pa.,; Utica, N.Y.; Akron, Ohio; Albany, N.Y.; and Syracuse. The commercial, which was crowd-sourced by Tongal, will run right before or after show but probably not during it, Mr. Bessinger said.
Quill used a similar tactic during the Super Bowl, when it aired an ad in Scranton that generated plenty of free media attention across the country and was viewed more than a million times online. Quill's PR agency is Olson. Quill has also cut a deal with American Airlines to run in-flight ads throughout the summer. The marketer is exploring other opportunities, such as running ads during reruns of the series.
The brand was first launched as copy paper in 2011 and quickly grew to one of the top five items sold on Quill.com out of more than 100,000 products. The marketer expanded the Dunder Mifflin line last year, slapping the brand on everything from markers to sticky notes and storage boxes. The products "help introduce some levity into the office," Mr. Bessinger said. For instance, notepads, called "yellow paper with straight lines," are pitched with the tagline "Look busy. Take notes." Each sheet contains spaces to list meeting attendees with boxes in which checkmarks can be entered for either "alert" or "asleep."
But what makes Mr. Bessinger think the brand can survive as the show it was based on slowly fades from the collective consciousness? He points to other so-called "reverse product placement" brands that have outlived the movies or shows from which they were hatched, including the Nestle-owned Wonka candy brand, which was inspired by the movie "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."
"As long as there is a company like ours that has the bandwidth and the large marketing footprint that is going to continue to put it out there, I don't necessary view [the end of the show] as being a huge risk," he said.