In the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review
, former MIT academic and current Xbox Live Arcade product planner David Edery has advocated for 'reverse placement' of products in video games - creating fictional brand names and then launching them in real life.
With the permission of Edery and the Business Review, we've extracted some of the highlights of his intriguing argument, which starts by pointing out that "...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."
It's noted: "We’ve seen this occur occasionally with other media. 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."
Edery then suggests: "Although Every Flavor Beans emerged from the mind of J. K. Rowling, consumer product companies could take the initiative in creating virtual products for games. 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?"
He also references one particular practical example: "Square Enix, publisher of the Final Fantasy
video game franchise, surely recognized the possibilities when it recently decided to partner with Suntory, a beverage manufacturer, to market a new energy drink in Japan. The drink, called Potion, is intended to evoke the “health potion” that players of Final Fantasy
can consume to restore their characters’“ hit points” during a game." Due to Final Fantasy
's massive Japanese popularity, this limited-edition brand ended up being a major success.
The conclusion? "Theoretically, reverse placement should work for a wide range of consumer products. Clothing, toys, cell phones, and watches could all be introduced to consumers in video games and virtual worlds before they entered the real world."
[Thanks to Edery and the Harvard Business Review for permission to reprint extracts from the article.]