Brand displaced: Trademarking, unmarking, and making the generic

Scott MacLochlainn


In this paper, I examine the creation of prop “non-brands” in the United States movie and television industry. In taking up the work of Independent Studio Services, a large prop house located in California, I look to how fictive and generic alternatives to “real” brands replicate brandedness without any brand. As product placement in movies and television becomes increasingly important as a form of brand promotion, the prop-brand cuts out a unique semiotic space in which a particular ideology of the generic is constituted. Such spaces of the generically marked and unmarked are, however, of much broader importance to anthropological and social theory. Reaching far beyond branding, the generic exists as a conceptual space in which we can understand the world of short-hands, blueprints, and proxies, and how they serve as conduits for universal and generalizable forms of knowledge.


Generic, branding, trademarks

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/706818