Synergy and Self-Delusion in the Book Industry
While I mentioned the background and my take on the desirability of the practice from a writing view, I think there are serious business problems with the approach. When you create products (and in this case, I think the term applies more thoroughly than book), the more you design with an eye to your own marketing and not to. In the needs of the user, the more you build something essentially injurious to the long-term health of your brand.
People will literally buy product placement up to a point. But eventually they catch the scent of the wool someone is trying to pull over their eyes. AOL did terribly with this concept. Many others have as well. It's not that exercises in synergy never seem to work - they might. In fact, they most often do when the cross-references are back to the original venture, like promotional tie-ins with movies. But when the reference is out from the original and not back, I'd wonder how much actual measurable results companies see. And if there is measurement, it's generally going to be over a tiny window of time, and with a small view. This is like making decisions to "make the numbers" for a given quarter without considering what the long term effect might be.
In the case of AOL, the result was unmitigated disaster. Remember that book sponsored by Bulgari? Only vaguely? Case in point. It's a desperate ploy that comes out when companies find that their customers no longer care about them. Why should they? The companies stopped caring about the customers a long time before. As the chief executive of the book's publisher, Perseus Books Group, wrote in a letter to the editor answering the editorial:
No money was paid to the authors for product placement, and the companies involved are disclosed on the book's copyright page. "Cathy's Book" is a novel to be read with mouse and cellphone in hand, and we see it as the antidote to the decline in teenage reading.These are the words of someone who must be inwardly embarrassed. No money paid? The IRS seems to think that barter is taxable income. The companies involved are disclosed on the copyright page? Certainly one of the more thoroughly perused spots in a book, I'm sure. Whenever you find yourself having to carefully construct your words to explain why you sort of didn't do what you got caught at, you should consider politics, not business, to be your metier.