In The New York Times Magazine: Brawndo

THIS JOKE’S FOR YOU:
A satirical product from a dark comedy crosses over to reality.

It’s interesting to consider the Brawndo project as metasubversion, making it possible to express knowing amusement at the absurdity of American commerce by buying something. But maybe the message is simply that cautionary tales about dumbed-down culture are a futile endeavor: show us an argument that we will buy anything, no matter how idiotic, and we say, “Awesome — how much for that?”

Or maybe the lesson is something else altogether….

Read the column in the March 4, 2008 issue of The New York Times Magazine, or here.

Previously on Murketing: about Brawndo; about imaginary brands. Even more imaginary brand links here.

Consumed archive is here, and FAQ is here. Consumed Facebook page is here.

Imaginary brands: past and future

Brainiac points out a contest of potential interest to those who follow imaginary brands. The contest is from Mark A. Raynor, author of The Amadeus Net, “a satirical novel set in the near future.” Contest is:

Alter a vintage ad — for any product — by inserting a product from a fictional future. That is to say, a product featured in a book, movie, or TV show set in the future. Post the ad online, and alert Rayner. The winner will receive a copy of “The Amadeus Net,” and will also get a walk-on part in his next novel. Deadline: April 20.

Details here and here. Entries to date here.

And if some of you are wondering, the answer is yes: Inspired by Worth1000.

Imaginary brand as actual sponsor

I’m really not much of a convention guy, but I have to admit a certain curiosity about ROFLCon, the gathering of living memes and “brainy academics” who go on about them. (Details here.)

Somehow I had missed the fact that the event’s “partners” include Brawndo: The Thirst Mutilator. This is the combination energy drink and crop irrigation product featured in the dark comedy cult favorite Idiocracy. In other words, it’s an imaginary brand — one that has crossed over into reality. (Here is a review.) So it’s a pretty great choice for a co-sponsor.

I was interested to note on the Brawndo site, up in the upper-right corner, the logo for Omni Consumer Products, a fictional entity from Robocop. (You can show your support of non-existent OCP by sporting a T-shirt from Last Exit To Nowhere, subject of a November 18, 2007 Consumed.) I’m assuming the implication is that somehow Brawndo and OCP are linked — a particularly meta suggestion, connecting imaginary brands from two different fictional worlds.

I don’t recognize that other logo up in there corner, though. Do you? This is answered in the comments now. Thanks!

Anyway, I unfortunately have other plans during the April 25-26 time frame, so no ROFLCon for me. But if you go, pick up a Brawndo, and let me know what you think.

Imaginary endorsement

The folks at Last Exit to Nowhere, purveyors of imaginary-brand T-shirts (Consumed 11/18/07) have a new design out that I gather is doing well among U.S. customers right now. Given current interest in politics, maybe that makes sense: It’s for an imaginary candidate. Senator Palantine, you may recall, is the guy that mohawked Travis Bickle is aiming to kill in Taxi Driver. Should you wish to show your support for the fictional Palantine, here you go. And if this gets you a second glance from fans of the film, you can always as: Are you lookin’ at me?

Imaginary beer brand in the works … but it’s not Duff?

Two quick follow-ups relating to the November 18, 2007 Consumed column on one of my favorite topics, imaginary brands. Brandweek reported recently (I’m still catching up reading) that:

Family Guy will become possibly the first animated show to ever have a beer licensee. In an example of reverse product placement, the Rhode Island-based microbrew will be dubbed Pawtucket Patriot Ale after show patriarch Peter Griffin’s libation of choice. It’s scheduled to appear in liquor stores and specialty outlets next year.

Also, I meant to pass along earlier this startling list of fake companies on Wikipedia. Plenty of inspiration for column subject LastExitToNowhere!

In Consumed: False Endorsement

Last Exit To Nowhere: Why imaginary brands can be even better than the real thing.

There is no shortage of logos in the world, no dearth of brands striving for consumer allegiance and no chance that the creation of new brands and logos will cease. In fact there’s an interesting subset of brands and logos that don’t bother with what seems like a crucial component: an actual product, service or company. Consider the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. It’s part of the fictional universe depicted in the 1979 film “Alien” and its sequels; Nostromo, the spaceship freighter in the first movie, is a Weyland-Yutani vessel. The company doesn’t do much in the way of branding in, you know, reality. But as it turns out, it’s possible to buy yourself a Weyland-Yutani T-shirt, or even a Nostromo T. It also turns out many people have….

Continue reading at the NYT Magazine site.

Additional links: Last Exit to Nowhere; more on imaginary brands on this site, and elsewhere.

* Bonus link: The column mentions that the creator of Last Exit to Nowhere used to be in a band called Consumed. You can hear a couple of their tracks (and buy CDs) at the Fat Wreck Chords site.

Murketing readers know this imaginary brands topic is a regular point of interest for me, and I thank everyone for past comments on this site that helped prod me toward today’s column. Update: See comments for more examples.

A brand of imaginary brands

Last Exit to Nowhere:

A collection of unique shirt designs which are inspired and pay homage to some of the most memorable places, corporations and companies in 20th century fiction – from the sunny shores of Amity Island (Jaws) to the frozen climes of Outpost #31 (The Thing).

Definitely my kind of thing. Above, of course, HAL, from 2001. Plus Tyrell Replicants (Blade Runner), Polymer Records (Spinal Tap), Mighty Mick’s Boxing (Rocky), etc.
Via Coudal.

Previous imaginary brand notes here.

Simpson imaginary brand addendum

Unbeige pointed out that I failed to point out the absence of Duff Beer in the Simpsons imaginary brand promotion the other day. I just got email from somebody that, among other things, made me aware of the above product: “This Simpsons collectible is a full sized replica of a can of Duff Beer, the ONLY beer served at Moe’s Tavern. The lid screws off and reveals a set of Simpsons playing cards.” The same online store also sells Duff T‘s etc.

Just so you know.

Simpsons, Kimpsons, and imaginary products

The insane Simpsons movie marketing attack is getting a lot of attention, but I have to mention two aspects of it. One is the strategy of making over certain 7-11 locations into Kwik E Marts stocked with the various fake products that are part of the show’s universe. It is definitely the most fully realized experiment in imaginary brands that I’ve ever seen. Here’s a set of images of the NY Kwik E Mart from Freshness. Here’s an overview of the imaginary brands on offer (via this guy, who’s got a list of Simpsons marketing tactics going).

The other interesting thing is that there’s a Vans artist series tied to the movie. Actually, that’s not really so interesting by itself, but one of the artists invited into the collaboration was Murketing favorite KAWS. One of the things KAWS is known for is his “Kimpsons” imagery. (Examples below and here and here.)

Some intellectual property owners might see something like that and send a cease-and-desist. Others are clever enough to do nothing, until the day comes to send a contract and a check. An image of the KAWS/Simpsons/Kimpsons Vans (among others from the series) at Complex.

Imaginary brands revisited

Anyone among you who remembers this earlier item on imaginary brands may be interested in the recent Brandweek bit on “reverse product placement.”

While traditional product placement refers to integrating a real brand into a fictional environment, an idea that’s gaining traction is to create a fictional brand in a fictional environment and then release it into the real world.

Take 2 Interactive, the videogame company, has several fictional brands in its Grand Theft Auto games, including Sprunk cola and Cluckin’ Bell, a fast-food chicken chain that has its own Web site (cluckinbellhappychicken.com) that includes menu items like the Cluckin’ Huge Meal and the Cluckin’ Little Meal. A Take 2 rep declined to comment on any plans to release those brands in the real world anytime soon, though future games will feature more fictional brands.

Imaginary Brands

In addition Wonder and Old Spice and any number of real brands included in the film Talladega Nights was one that — I believe — is imaginary: Laughing Clown Malt Liquor. So far as I know, you can’t really buy Laughing Clown Malt Liquor. You can, however, buy a Laughing Clown Malt Liquor cap. In fact, they’re on sale. Which might be an indicator that they aren’t exactly catching on.

Still, I think imaginary brands are pretty interesting. The Times ran a story earlier this year about fake brands from the era before product placement became a huge business — Beautee Soap in The Hucksters, Dazzledent in The Seven Year Itch, and so on. (Not mentioned was Vitajex, from the must-see A Face In The Crowd.) I assume there must be more contemporary examples, but all I can think of right now is the Big Kahuna Burger chain in Pulp Fiction. (Googling about that a bit led me to this site, where someone is selling “Bad Mother Fucker” wallets.)

I also came across this article about a German design firm called Schein Berlin, which apparently specializes in fake brands:

In addition to providing products to other TV series, they’ve been designing fake products for the RTL soap “Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten” for five years. For this one show alone, they’ve invented 380 fictional brands, some of which have come into existence in as little as 20 minutes to an hour to meet a set designer’s last-minute needs.

The article says the firm also “built a complete Russian supermarket” for The Bourne Conspiracy, “using hundreds of logos and labels, all of them invented.” But apparently in the film itself, this just flits by and isn’t really noticeable.

Too bad. Somebody should put on a gallery show of fake brand design. I’d love to see it.