5 fake brands in film & TV created by graphic designers

Love it or hate it, product placement is a staple of many films and TV shows. Providing an element of realism while potentially saving a production a significant slice of the budget through advertisements, brands have had a symbiotic relationship with TV since its inception. 

While a big budget Netflix series like Stranger Things has the gravitas to attract brand partnerships and place more than 100 visible brands across the season’s eight episodes, it’s a minefield for independent filmmakers who need to adhere to the Ofcom broadcasting code.  Heck, even Stranger Things received some backlash over the visibility of their partnerships. That’s why so many TV show producers and filmmakers are keen to find alternative options. 

One popular option to avoid accidental brand endorsement or copyright infringement is to use fake brands, which is great news for graphic designers looking for additional income, especially if you like the idea of your designs featuring in film and TV! To help you get to grips with the type of artwork you can sell via the Artwork Bazaar platform, we’ve pulled together some examples of fake brands in film and TV. 

  1. Scrubs and Cougar Town – Parodying a Coffee brand

Remember Scrubs and Cougar Town? Of course you do. Released in the ‘noughties’, both shows featured ‘Coffee Bucks’, proving that sometimes an obvious parody is required to set the scene. With the design of the poster and the coffee cup sleeves, the audience know exactly which company is being referenced. A colour palette swap, image change and slight amendment to the brands name may seem like a huge change but is subtle enough for audience members who may only catch a glimpse of the background design. 

A parody of a familiar chain may also be used to show how a production is set in an alternate universe to our own. This compliments the comedic nature of Scrubs; a television show noted for fast-paced slapstick and unrealistic portrayal of medical staff.

  1. Kill Bill – Tarantino’s renowned Red Apple Cigarettes

While those familiar with Quentin Tarantino will recognise the Red Apple Cigarettes brand, others will wonder why the brand is so important on a graphic design standpoint. While Tarantino’s fictional brand would have originally been provided to save money, it has subsequently become a staple of Tarantino’s work almost as renowned as the genre he has concocted. Red Apple Cigarettes have now appeared in multiple films and for fans, has become a familiar brand of its own. 

The incorporation of Red Apple Cigarettes throughout Tarantino’s filmography is an example of how a product can connect movies into one shared universe. In fact, Red Apple Cigarettes are so ubiquitous with Tarantino that additional lore on the brand was even introduced in Tarantino’s latest movie: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. 

3. Lost – the rise and fall of Oceanic Airlines

“Taking you places you’ve never imagined”

On 22nd September 2004 a flight from Sydney Australia never arrived at its destination Los Angeles California and from there ‘Lost’ was born.

If you like a spoiler we’ll share this with you: if a film or TV series has the iconic Oceanic Airlines design featured in it chances are an aviation disaster is imminent. 

The indisputable symbol of a setback this design was created because unsurprisingly no reputable airline would want its brand associated with catastrophe, death and debacle.  

The believable fictional airline has lent itself to many productions including Executive Design, For the Love of the Game, Diagnosis Murder, Grey’s Anatomy as well as comics! 

So excited by this design Josh Bailey has re-loved the logo in a fantasy design taking it back to the 1970’s. 

4. Prison Break, Dexter + more – Finder-Spyder Search Engine

“I’m old-school, Mulder. Pre-Google” 

Search engines have become a daily part of our existence, who knew that one day we’d have a place to ask all of our unanswered questions from the bizarre to the practical. It makes complete sense then that our favourite characters would also have questions preying on their minds in the small hours. 

Dubbed the ‘most popular search engine in show business’ Finder-Spyder shows that even huge productions would rather avoid footing the bill and entering the strict application processes in place. 

This non existent search engine has been used by the likes of Dexter, Skyler (Breaking Bad), Mulder and Scully (The X Files) and Prison Break’s characters and has become so beloved by film and TV fanatics there are blogs dedicated to its very use. 

Whilst most design work within this landscape is tangible, ready to print and place Finder Spyders stateside popularity shows that every design detail matters and can gain notoriety however minimal its screen time appearance. 

5. Coming to America – Soul Glo Hair Product

“Let your Soul Glo”

Firstly if you haven’t seen Coming to America please take a moment to hang your head in shame and ‘don’t spill your beverages’. Released back in 1988 Coming to America tells the story of an African prince played by Eddie Murphy travelling to America in search of a wife.

Soul Glo was the must have hair product featured within the film. Alongside an alluring advert intentionally created to be brilliantly rubbish and track composed by Nile Rodgers, it’s simplistic design and tell all name delivered promise to its users. 

Over thirty years since its debut Soul Glo remains an iconic fake brand, source of humour and the go to point of cultural reference when nodding to this classic comedy. 

Cult ‘fake brands’ the show you how it’s done

Our top 5 fake brands feature designs which have outlived their original purpose and gone on to become ‘cult’ fake brands synonymous with the films and cast they have served. We hope these examples have inspired you to delve into the depths of your imagination and start creating your own fake brands. Why not give it a go? Once you’re done you can upload your fake brands to our website and start selling via the platform – who knows which films or TV shows your artwork might appear in next? There’s only one way to find out.

Get started by requesting an artist profile now. Already got one? Check out our FAQs if you have any questions about prepping your artwork or get uploading now!

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