We're all fully aware of the great and shameless lengths marketers will go through to place products into entertainment...look! Jack Bauer is saving the world by making a call on his Nextel phone to Chloe at CTU, who is using a Mac!
But a few enterprising minds are reversing the direction, pulling once-fictional products out of Hollywood and video games and into the real world. In a recent Harvard Business Review article (sorry, you'll need a subscription to read the whole thing), David Edery, worldwide games portfolio planner for XBox Live, explores the possibilities of this fledgling idea called "reverse product placement."
This isn't just merchandising we're talking about...not just slapping the name of a show on a product...but actually taking a made-up product that has a role in the movie or video game and putting it on store shelves.
If you're from my generation, the best example is Willy Wonka candy . Originally created as a tie-in for the Gene Wilder version of the film, Wonka candy is still an active part of the Nestle candy line, although the only product they sell that's actually mentioned in the movie is the everlasting gobstopper.
More recent, and a better example of a virtual-to-real product placement, is Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans , a recurring part of the Harry Potter mythos and now sold by JellyBelly.
Edery also points out the success of the energy drink Potion, which sold 3 million units in Japan, and was the brainchild of the folks at Square Enix, who decided to create a product similar to that used by characters in the Final Fantasy games.
The three hallmarks of a good reverse product placement prospect: it must be memorable, prominent in the virtual world in which it is used, and its use in the virtual world must parallel its use in the real world. The benefits, Edery says, are a built-in audience and a deeper level of relationship with your customer.
So how about it? What virtual products do you think would be best-sellers on our real-world shelves?