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Hanergy and the rise of Chinese product placement


About a week ago, I had the pleasure of watching Transcendence (AL) and Hanergy was featured in the movie. This got me thinking about the rise of Chinese product placement in Hollywood movies and American TV shows. From Transformers to Iron Man and The Big Bang Theory, Chinese brands are hitting the big screens.

The rise of Chinese Product placement

Product placement has been around since the earliest days of movies and television, but it has only recently become popular for Chinese brands to place products into American films and TV shows. According to the Los Angeles Times, “In most cases, the primary goal isn’t to woo American consumers. Instead, the Chinese firms hope that their presence in Hollywood productions will resonate with Chinese viewers.” 

In China, American movies and shows have become big business and brands that are featured in these productions are perceived, by Chinese views, to have higher quality. But not all Chinese product placements are created equal, take Transformers: Age of Extinction for example. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Everyone in the audience was puzzled as to why Jack Reynor was drinking Chinese Red Bull in Texas.” Red Bull wanted to increase their product awareness in China, but failed to naturally implant their product into the story line causing many Chinese viewers to laugh at the poor product placement. 

Another example of Chinese product placement is in the extremely popular TV show, The Big Bang Theory. According to Mental Floss, “Shuhua milk appeared on The Big Bang Theory because the product is lactose-free, so lactose-intolerant Leonard can drink it.” Shuhua milk is a popular drink from Chinese dairy giant Inner Mongolia Yili. Shuhua cleverly added their product into the story line, which allowed the product to appear natural and not out of place like the Red Bull product placement. This brand has been actively pursuing a product placement campaign in many famous shows and movies, including Transformers: Age of Extinction

Chinese dairy giant Inner Mongolia Yili - Chinese Product placement

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Hanergy and the rise of Chinese Product placement

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned the Chinese product placement of Hanergy in Transcendence. It did not come as a surprise to see a Chinese product placement within the movie, but it did come as surprise to see Hanergy. For those of you who do not know Hanergy, don’t feel bad, Hanergy is a solar power and alternative energy company. The only reason I know about this company is because I met a man that works there. The company’s HQ is based in Beijing and I work in the energy sector, which means my acquaintance and I travel in similar circles.

Hanergy product placement in Transcendence movie, rise of Chinese product placement

Hanergy product placement in Transcendence movie

The placement was flawless and native. It was worked into the story line without awkwardness and for the untrained eye or someone who doesn’t know the brand, it would have gone unnoticed. The reason it is worth noting is, to me, the product placement seemed bizarre. The company sells solar, hydro, and wind power systems, and many of their contracts are B2B or government contracts.

Final on Chinese Product Placement

Only a few Chinese brands have been able to succeed internationally. Lenovo, a Chinese computer company, with product placements in the Iron Man series is one of the few Chinese brands that have become household names internationally. But with domestic markets becoming saturated, many Chinese brands are looking towards international markets to boost stagnate sales and one of the most popular ways is through product placements. 

Although the initial benefit for Chinese product placement in Hollywood movies and shows is in the domestic markets; many consumers are being introduced to Chinese brands, actors, and products. This introduction is the beginning of a new wave of globalization from East to West. We are starting to see a shift in attitude, with Chinese brands looking to compete in developing and mature markets around the globe.

What are your thoughts on this development? Do you know any Chinese brands? What other Chinese product placement have you seen?

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