NEW YORK: After years of legal activity preventing brewers from marketing Duff Beer, the preferred tipple of cartoon favourite Homer Simpson, media owner 21st Century Fox has finally opted for some reverse product placement.
It has announced it will be producing a premium lager under the Duff name in Chile and expects to roll it out to other South American markets and Europe early next year.
"It's got a very good balance of flavour and refreshment to it," according to Jeffrey Godsick, president of the consumer products division at 21st Century Fox. "It's fairly deep golden in colour, it's got a hint of fruit to it, it's got a caramel aromatic to it."
The description was necessary as the fictional Duff is anything but premium. "Duff is inspired by the brand that's in the show, but it begins and ends at that," Godsick told the Wall Street Journal.
"It's a completely stand-alone brand," he added. "You will not see any characters from the show involved in the marketing in any way."
The choice of Chile as the launchpad for the new brand was the outcome of attempts to protect intellectual property, as unauthorised Duff beers were appearing in that market.
"Once you see enough piracy, you are faced with two choices," Godsick said. "One is deciding to fight it, and the other is deciding to go out [into the market] with it."
Another angle came from Ariel Casarin, an associate professor of strategy at the Universidad Adolfo Ibanez in Santiago, Chile, who pointed out a legal grey area in that intellectual property laws may not protect a fictional product.
"Because the product did not in fact exist, the argument goes that Fox cannot claim trademark on it," he explained. By creating a real product, Fox is therefore on a stronger legal footing.
The popularity of The Simpsons means that there may be a significant global market opportunity. "I think there's potential to have Duff everywhere in the world," said Godsick.
A 2013 study in the International Journal of Advertising confirmed the existence of such "protobrands" and said there was evidence that attitudes towards a fictional brand could influence purchase intention of a future defictionalised brand in the real world.
Data sourced from Wall Street Journal, International Journal of Advertising; additional content by Warc staff