The Independent had this to say about us on Sunday (17.2.08):
In a twist on product placement, fictional brands made famous by TV shows and movies are being lauched into the real world.
Fox Network, the US media channel behind the animated series Family Guy, is launching Pawtucket Patriot Ale in America, playing on the name of the beer company in which the show’s main character works.
Over here, Last Exit to Nowhere (www.lastexittonowhere.com) produces graphic T-shirts that reference some of the most memorable fake brands from 20th-century cinema, including the USCSS Nostromo starship from Alien and The Winchester Tavern from Shaun of the Dead.
Movie geeks – sorry, “film buffs” – are just as obsessed as sports fanatics, but they have fewer accepted ways to show their love. You can wear a Raiders cap almost anywhere, but a Pirates of the Caribbean jacket reads “I have no life. Please punch me.” Luckily, the U.K.-based company Last Exit to Nowhere (lastexittonowhere.com) understands both the urge to represent and the need for discretion. Its faux souvenir tees cost around $40 and reference such fictional places and entities as the Tyrell Corporation (Blade Runner), Camp Crystal Lake (Friday the 13th), the USCSS Nostromo (Alien) and Amity Island (Jaws). So you’ll be pegged as a movie nerd only by the like-minded – at least until Last Exit makes one for Adams College.
Published: November 18, 2007
Last Exit to Nowhere
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.
LastExitToNowhere.com specializes in designs relating to “some of the most memorable places, corporations and companies in 20th-century fiction.” Other popular T-shirts on the site, which went up in June, include one for Tyrell (“More Human Than Human” is its motto), maker of genetic replicants in “Blade Runner,” and Polymer Records, a music label in “This Is Spinal Tap.” The site’s founder is Mike Ford, a 34-year-old graphic designer and movie fan based in Nottingham, England. Thanks to attention from blogs and, more recently, publicity from the British magazine Empire, Ford says he has shipped about 4,000 shirts to customers in Europe, the U.S., even New Zealand, and imaginary brands are now his full-time job. (With shipping, the T’s cost around $45 for the U.S. shopper.)
“I’ve always had a lot of T-shirts,” he says, “and loved any kind of travel T-shirt, like a souvenir.” He also liked band shirts and even designed the logo for the one he was in — a punk group called Consumed, as it happens — which put out several records and toured the U.S. before breaking up a few years ago. “It was sort of a natural progression,” Ford says, to make souvenir shirts of places and things that exist only in fiction — and that act as a subtle tribute to a film or book. After all, only a true fan would be attentive enough to the fake brand’s imaginary world to pick up on the reference.
Fictional-brand fandom has real precedence. Last year the online store 80sTees.com named Duff beer, from “The Simpsons,” the No. 1 fake brand — beating out T-shirts for Dunder Mifflin, the paper company on “The Office.” Promotions for “The Simpsons Movie” took the notion to its logical extreme, concocting actual products to be sold under imaginary brand names, like Buzz Cola, Frosted Krusty-O’s and so on, at certain 7-Eleven locations that were made over into outposts of the show’s Kwik-E-Mart chain. They sold briskly and still trade hands on eBay.
Other real fake brands have attained a more permanent status. Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans began in Harry Potter books and moved to actual retail shelves; “Forrest Gump” spun off an actual restaurant chain, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company; and Nestlé sells candy under the Wonka (as in Willy) name. An article in The Harvard Business Review last year mulled “reverse product placement” as a strategy for starting new brands, pointing to the imaginary Sprunk brand of soda in the game Grand Theft Auto as a possible candidate.
There’s little chance of this happening with Last Exit to Nowhere: Surely it’s not worth the effort to make actual replicants just to capitalize on the Tyrell name. Also, the intellectual-property issues involved are a bit weedy. (Though Ford has yet to hear from any of the creators of the movies that have inspired his T-shirts — he figures he’s helping keep the films fresh in consumers’ minds. He adds, helpfully, that he would be happy to work out a deal or stop selling any particular item if he is “stepping on anyone’s toes.”) Finally, fake brands — the parodic Simpsons products, Mooby’s in Kevin Smith movies, Big Kahuna burgers in “Pulp Fiction,” etc. — tend to be appealing partly because they are fake and often encompass a kind of critique of the absurdity of branding itself.
Souvenir T-shirts for places and things that don’t actually exist play off this by simultaneously endorsing something and smirking at the idea of wearable endorsement. Ford, in fact, describes himself as, “not one who sports logos, advertising on your clothes for Nike and Reebok and all that.” That’s why, after his first couple of hundred shirts, he realized it was a mistake to have even a small Last Exit to Nowhere logo on the back. “It was taking away something from the mystery of it,” he says. Now, he says, the T-shirts are “totally unbranded.” Sort of.
“T-shirts from fake movie corporations. Because sci-fi brand names are cool. For those who find wearing the title of their favourite movie just a little too obvious, the T-shirts at lastexittonowhere.com provide the cool/über-nerdy alternative of sporting a logo associated with your choice flick.”
“Here’s a cool idea: t-shirts with the logos of fictitious companies and places. This one’s for Weyland Yutani, the evil corporation from the Alien movies, but there are loads more in the range, allowing you to pretend that you’re an employee of Cyberdyne Systems, survived a visit to The Shining’s Overlook Hotel, or been on holiday to Halloween’s Haddonfield”.
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