Virtual brands and Fictional Brands explained and innovative branding and brand management techniques presented.
The concepts of protobrands and reverse product placement and explores some of the
managerial and academic implications.
The paper establishes that the brand concept may now be detached from physical embodiment. The
extension of application of the branding domain to the fictional and computer-synthesized worlds is
extensively illustrated by examples of virtual brands from books, films, video games and other
multi-user virtual environments.
Evidence suggests that purely potential brands (protobrands) initiated in the virtual
world may possess strong consumer-based brand equity. The study shows that the equity of the
protobrands may be leveraged in-world (and can acquire legal protection) or through reverse product
placement and the launch of the physical embodiment of the protobrand in the physical world (the
This is an initial conceptual paper on virtual and HyperReal
brands. This study, which has no antecedents, highlights the need for further empirical inquiry. The
reverse product placement phenomenon may result in academics and practitioners to revise the
traditional models of building brands.
Originality/value – The paper introduces and defines virtual brands, both fictional and
computer-synthesized, HyperReal brands and the reverse product placement phenomenon.