Getting Buzz from Reverse Product Placement

It’s interesting to see the developments of Second Life and the potential power of this as a marketing channel. Virtual worlds have many marketers considering product placement in video games and beyond. Studies suggest that well-designed placements in games are more effective than placements on television or in films because, in a game’s immersive environment, players can interact with the products they see.

But while embedding products in video games is increasingly common, an equally interesting commercial opportunity has gone relatively unnoticed: reverse placement, or the commercial translation of fictional brands or products from games into the real world.

Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, a candy found in the Harry Potter books and movies, was converted into a popular real-world product by Cap Candy, a division of Hasbro. New flavors—including, in 2006, pickle and sausage—encourage repeat purchases of a product that allows children to gleefully share Harry Potter’s nauseating experiences and magic powers.

So where is the Buzz? Why spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars fighting mature competitors for mindshare and shelf space in the physical world when you can launch a new offering in an uncluttered fictional one? Indeed, with ever more consumers playing video games, the physical world may ultimately cease to be the most important battleground for new products. And if nothing else, reverse placement promises to be more fun than, say, your umpteenth focus group.

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