Chuck it out!: Branding vs. In-World Promotional Products for NBC’s ‘Chuck’

While I do love Christmas so much that I basically crap tinsel from Halloween to New Year’s, there is one downfall to the end of the year (besides the freezing Chicago weather). This unfortunate period of time from mid-December to mid-January or sometimes even (gasp!) March is when I am in cultural withdrawal from my TV shows being taken off the air for the winter hiatus.

The one show I am most excited about coming back is Chuck. The show is about an employee of a discount electronics/computer store (Buy More) who works on the computer repair staff (Nerd Herd). His ex-roommate emails him a video that contains subliminal messaging of all of the CIA’s secrets. He’s then assigned two handlers, hottie Sarah Walker (Australian actress Yvonne Strahovski) and badass John Casey (Adam Baldwin of Firefly fame).

Chuck was nearly canceled at the end of its second season and was saved from aforementioned Firefly-like doom by NBC. I am so unbelievably glad it’s continuing, because it’s a fun show, I have a huge fangirl crush on Zachary Levi (perhaps even rivaling Justin Long), and I get to snag more amazing swag.

The promotional products they’re putting out with Chuck are – dare I say it? – awesome. When you’re working with fiction, there are two ways to go with promotional products: branding or in-world.

Branding consists of sticking the name of the show or movie onto custom t-shirts, personalized mugs, or imprinted pencils. Basically, you’re getting the name of the show or movie out to the public by making it large and in charge.

In-world promotion (a highly technical term that I made up just now) consists of creating the items that the characters were using or clothes they were wearing. Imagine being able to buy Charles Kane’s sled or a genuine MacGyver paper clip. That’s in-world promotion.

Chuck strikes an awesome balance in its merchandise with Nerd Herd shirts and Buy More mugs that look like they were lifted right from the show itself. Then, on the reverse of these items is a pretty cool but not too intrusive Chuck logo.

The appeal of the product has to outweigh the customers’ feelings that they’re totally pimped out for the benefit of the promotional product provider. The Chuck merchandise does just that by putting what’s best for the customer first: a product they love and will use. By simply keeping that priority front and center, their promotion and sales will follow through positive word of mouth and frequent use.

Whether you’re working in the entertainment industry or not, this promotional product strategy can boost your brand awareness by taking care of the critical part of the campaign: the customer! Boosting raw brand awareness is important, but the real conversions come from personal customer satisfaction.

What say you, gentle readers? How do you keep your customers happy? How have you used this strategy in your own campaign? Have you put your own spin on it? Are you as excited as I am for the next season of Chuck?

Until next time, keep expanding your brand!


Jana Quinn

An old ‘G’ that’s been working for QLP since it was in Bret’s basement – Jana has been writing since she made up a story about a Jana-Tiger that liked rocky road ice cream and got straight A’s. She enjoys writing about marketing and pop culture, posting a ‘Die Hard’ article as often as she’s allowed. She is inspired by the articles at Cracked and frequently wears a Snuggie in the office. You can also connect with Jana on Google+.


  1. Chuck Me Mondays

    RT @JanaQuintin: @nbcchuck @ChuckMeMondays I got paid to write a blog post about Chuck for work. I love my job.

  2. Brenley Dueck

    RT @JanaQuintin: @nbcchuck @ChuckMeMondays I got paid to write a blog post about Chuck for work. I love my job.

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