In time for this month's release of the new Harry Potter movie (today) and book (another 10 days), Jelly Belly recently launched its new sausage and pickle flavors in the Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans line. Meanwhile, last week, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon's Kwik-E-Mart came to life in 12 locations in North America to promote the July 27 release of The Simpson's Movie.
Both of these, of course, are fictional things brought into the real world. Marketers call the concept "reverse product placement." Roald Dahl's Charlie and Chocolate Factory spurred a whole line of Willy Wonka candy; and the 1994 movie Forrest Gump spawned a 30-ish-store chain of Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurants. Five years ago, Jelly Belly unveiled its first gross Bertie Bott's flavors, like Vomit and Earthworm. Eventually, other candies originally conjured up in the imagination of J.K. Rowling -- Jelly Slugs and Blood Pops -- made it to store shelves (or, at least, to the Internet).
Apu's Kwik-E-Mart is a slightly more defined, and complex, promotion. Between July 1 and 3, a dozen 7-Eleven stores throughout the U.S. and Canada were remodeled overnight into Kwik-E-Marts of the cartoon family's fictional hometown of Springfield. What's more, 7-Eleven partnered with the Malt-O-Meal Co. to create the KrustyO's frosted cereal and hooked up with Cott Corp. to create Buzz Cola. Also, 7-Eleven's iced Slurpee drink has been retooled as the Kwik-E-Mart Squishee, and store ATMs morphed into First Bank of Springfield machines. Simpsons creator Matt Groening (who is real) even produced a real comic book of the fake Bart's fake superhero, Radioactive Man, for sale at the stores.
All of these things, of course, are fictional products brought to life. They're life imitating art. They blur the line between reality and fiction, and at the same time make even the most mundane experiences -- like getting some cash at a 7-Eleven ATM -- almost like a visit to the theme park.
But here's what I wonder: Is this blurring of the line between reality and fiction a good thing? At some point, will we start to expect some sort of entertainment at every turn, else the entire experience feel lacking?
All good questions, I think. And questions for which someone, I'm sure, has answers. As for me, here's what I really want to know: Where does cash from the First National Bank of Springfield kiosk really come from? And how long before I can list on my insurance card Dr. Gregory House as my Primary Care MD?