It’s tough enough to create and grow a real brand, but movies and TV shows often have to put plausible brands together that fit the plot, or at least provide an appropriate facsimile. Sometimes, in the process, they use the same principles as real brands. And, sometimes, they’re just made for a good laugh. A few of the good ones:
The Dharma Initiative in the TV show “LOST”—the brand was positioned as what seemed like an idealistic commune, but was really for bizarre research into magnetic fields, time travel and genetic modifications. Dharma is a Hindu word for cosmic order and was a perfect choice for this elaborate brand concept. The Dharma Initiative logo appeared on virtually every imaginable item—from the commune’s work clothes, to every package of food and supplies, vehicles, door signs, you name it. There were a few sub-brands as well, such as the Dharma Swan, which was a specialized station where a code was entered every 108 minutes to prevent the world from ending, which, presumably, would have been very rough on the cosmic order.
Heisler Beer or Heisler Gold Ale is a brand of suds featured in many movies and TV shows as a prop for drinking scenes. The brand is made by the major prop supplier Independent Studio Services (a basic brand name, if ever I’ve heard one). This fictional beer brand has been featured in dozens of movies and TV shows including, “Bones,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Burn Notice,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “CSI: Miami,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Eli Stone,” “Everybody Hates Chris,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Training Day” and “Two and a Half Men.” Using a fake product like Heisler is a simple alternative to a known brand, for which producers usually want product placement fees. Heisler sounds imported, and the gold ale version adds a certain sense of a premium choice. (One of my favorite fake beer brands has always been “Buzz Beer” from “The Drew Carey Show.” That’s putting the benefit right in the brand name. With no apologies.)
The movie “Office Space,” which has become a cult favorite, presents several somewhat sarcastic brands, but actually spawned a new idea for a real one. The main character, Peter, works at a software firm known as Initech. In one scene, the origin of the brand name is revealed by a banner in the background that reads: “Innovation plus technology equals Initech.” It’s a trite explanation for a brand name, which must have been entirely intentional by the writers.
A nearby restaurant is named Chotchkie’s, which wickedly satirizes causal dining brands. Employees are required to wear 15 “pieces of flair” to demonstrate their personality, but when Jennifer Aniston’s character wears her 15 pieces, the diligent manager of the restaurant explains patiently why wearing the minimum pieces of flair (sundry pins and buttons) isn’t really enough either.
In the movie, however, a red Swingline stapler figures prominently as a plot device. Until this movie hit the big screen, Swingline did not make a bright red version of their stapler, but soon after it came out they saw that enterprising people were repainting them and selling them online. Swingline brought out a red version and it became one of their better-selling models. A movie that mocked brands ended up helping a real brand grow its sales.
As published in the Central Penn Business Journal and Lehigh Valley Business.