I read with interest today’s post from Jennifer Van Grove on Mashable, which describes how Cascadian Farms (a real-life organic foods brand) has expanded to the popular Facebook game, Farmville.
Apparently the pretend organic blueberries being grown on the site now carry the popular Cascadian Farms brand. The brand even comes complete with its own Facebook persona–Farmer Joe Cascadian, the blueberry tender. Mashable reports that since Farmville’s branded blueberries have launched Farmer Joe has received over 5,000 new friend requests.
The use of real brands in computer games is still relatively young as a marketing strategy. Of course, Cascadian Farms is not the first real-life brand to carry over into the virtual world. The popular Second Life game is virtually full (pun intended) of real brands. So much so, in fact, that some companies have taken steps to protect the use of their brand names online according to a post from Michael Santo on Hot Hardware, which describes a lawsuit over the unauthorized use of the trademark name “Taser” in Second City.
Is the use of real brands in virtual reality a hot new advertising trend that can’t be ignored, or merely a fad that has seen its time and will soon fade from the public relations landscape?
While there will always be some consumers who remain uninterested in online games, I believe that online sites are increasing in influence even as the influence of traditional media fades. Specific games may go in and out of vogue, but the fact remains that people are spending a lot more time online than they used to and at least some of that online time is being spent in social gaming.
The whole thing reminds me of movie brand product placement, which has become big business. If a sponsor can get his or her brand mentioned in a blockbuster movie, sales are likely to spike. I believe that brands who are savvy enough to get a mention in today’s hottest social games will experience a similar spike in sales.
In addition to Farmville and Second Life, Pop Sugar’s Retail Therapy features real fashion brands and there are others as well.
To read more on the use of real brands in virtual worlds as a marketing strategy, refer to Jennifer Bartlett‘s excellent post, Real Brand Opportunities In A Virtual Economy at MediaPost has an excellent discussion on the topic.
Do you plan on expanding your PR and marketing strategy into the virtual worlds of online gaming any time soon? Why, or why not?