As Seen on TV: The Fictional World of Promotional Products

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Since film’s debut to a broader audience in the early 1900s, the entertainment industry has changed how we tell stories. We can explore realms and worlds and connect with characters and stories we might have never gotten to before. We can see our favorite books come to life and play our favorite characters in video games.

For decades, faux businesses and organizations have been a part of media, like the Acme Company in Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons or Dunder Mifflin in The Office. Whether the business is central to the story like Oscorp in Spider-Man or Gasteau’s in Ratatouille, they’re just trying to avoid copyright infringement, and a potential lawsuit like Runway Magazine in The Devil Wears Prada (which of course we all suspect is based on Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour).

Like movies, video games, and television have all become significant parts of our lives – how many of us talked about the season finale of season 4 of Game Of Thrones when Oberyn Martell got his head squished around the watercooler the next day at work? This shared cultural experience has made way for a rise in pop-culture-related merchandise, including promotional products based on faux businesses.

So, I pulled some seriously knock-out good examples of promotional products for inspiration from six different faux businesses and organizations featured in TV, movies, and even a video game.

1. The Righteous Gemstones (HBO)

The Righteous Gemstones is a dark comedy centered around the Gemstone Family: a family that owns and leads a megachurch in the Southern United States. Patriarch Eli Gemstone (John Goodman) is joined by sons Jesse Gemstone (Danny McBride), Kelvin Gemstone (Adam Devine), and his daughter Judy Gemstone (Edie Patterson), as they find themselves in some questionable situations. Their headquarters is called the Gemstone Salvation Center, and it naturally has a gift shop where you can purchase Gemstone Salvation Center shirts. If you’re lucky enough to be chosen as a deacon, you can even get a special deacon pin.

2. Toy Story (Pixar)

In the 90s, we saw the rise of the play place and entertainment center with businesses like Chuck E. Cheese and DiscoveryZone making their debut appearances. We even saw them spring up in movies like Toy Story. Pizza Planet features galactic-themed games, attractions, and of course, pizza. Naturally, you can purchase a delivery jacket, a bucket hat, or even a plush of their adorable little alien mascot to rep your favorite pizza place.

3. Star Wars: The Galactic Starcruiser Hotel (Disney Parks)

While I’ve talked about Star Wars promotional products in a previous blog, this takes it to a whole new level. You may not know this, but Galaxy’s Edge and the Galactic Starcruiser Hotel are canon within the Star Wars universe (meaning that it exists within the universe of the films and tv shows). So, any time you step into the park or book a room on the Chandrila Star Line, you’re a part of a galaxy far, far away. You can purchase things you might find in Star Wars in both of these places, such as a droid action figure, jackets, drinkware, and more. Can you imagine having The Empire as your client?

4. Ghostbusters (Columbia Pictures)

While Ghostbusters itself is a brand all on its own — we’re focusing on something bigger. Like the Stay Puft Marshmallow brand. Their lovable little mascot turned into a giant fifty-foot creature by Ray Stantz (Dan Akyroyd) and proceeded to destroy part of Manhattan. Of course, naturally, you can still buy the marshmallow brand (and a cute little plush of the mascot!) in the Ghostbusters world and the real world.

5. Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Nintendo)

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Did you know you can get promotional products in Animal Crossing: New Horizons? Within the game, you travel between islands using Dodo Airlines. The more trips you take using the airlines, the more promotional merch you get, like a sleeping mask, slippers, the classic mug, etc. If you want to learn more about Animal Crossing take a peek at our blog post on the subject here.

6. Jurassic Park (Universal Studios)

When it comes to merchandising, John Hammond had it right. He was prepared to package up and deliver dinosaurs with a big bow on top right before all hell broke loose and dinosaurs took over the park and the island (and then they got them under control and opened Jurassic World, and then it happened again because we don’t learn lessons). Just check out all the promotional products they had ready to go before the park opened! Of course, the merchandise has leaked into the real world and it’s not uncommon to see someone with a Jurassic Park shirt, a magnetic car decal on yellow SUVs, or to see plush toys and replica JP Jeeps on the shelves.

Are there any that I didn’t mention that are your favorites like Bob’s Burgers or maybe Stark Industries from Marvel? Let me know in the comments below. To check out more about promotional products in the pop culture world click here.

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(Marketing Content Writer)

Betty is the Marketing Content Writer at SAGE. She is a self-proclaimed, bonafide nerd, and when she's not writing, you can find her playing video games, watching space documentaries, hunting for vintage Star Wars toys, and binge-watching the latest show on Netflix.

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