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I've noticed in many films, videos, music-videos, etc produced in the 1980s that Repo-Man's "no name brand" appears in many places...

Repo Man, several groceries without a brand

The original:

Suicidal Tendancies - Institutionalized:

no-brand groceries on a shelf

Lite Beer (source unknown):

beer without a brand

Why does this fictional grocery no-name-brand appear in different and ostensibly unrelated productions?

  • "What other media has this fictional grocery no-name-brand appeared in" is a fairly open-ended list question and thus off-topic. – BCdotWEB Mar 27 at 12:14
  • In th 80's the sci-fi had two, let say, trends. One was that corporations will own everything (Wetland-Yutani, Ubik, Omni Consumer Products) this was influenced by Japan corporation who really produced everything. From toothpaste to noodles. The second trend was that future will be so unified that there will be no need for branding or to distinguish yourself from competition because there will be no competition. So instead of screaming red pack of cornflakes just white box with "corn flakes" on them. Because there is no need for anything else. – SZCZERZO KŁY Mar 27 at 12:46
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    Erm, some of those were real. We did have generic packaging of store brands in the 1980s. – jeffronicus Mar 27 at 13:33
  • @jeffronicus we still do. There are some scholar who think that downfall of tesco was introduction of their "high" brand with better desing instead generic one assosiated with tesco. – SZCZERZO KŁY Mar 27 at 14:47
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When a production needs a prop and they don't want to ask permission to use a real brand (which will possibly be refused or cost licensing money), they'll use an existing prop from a company that specializes in such items. And thus you see the same newspaper in productions decades apart:

The same newspaper has reappeared time and time again throughout the years in various movies and TV series, such as No Country for Old Men, Back to the Future, 10 Things I Hate About You, Casper, Desperate Housewives, Modern Family and lots of others.

They explain why it is used:

Unless the production house has a contract to use a newspaper of a certain publishing house, it is far safer to use one that doesn't entail any legal bounds. If a movie is made with an appearance of a notable product in it (including newspaper), you should know that it's not a coincidence. The arrangement is made either by licensing the product name, or in many cases, promoting it instead. The product placement fees in recent Transformers trilogy practically covers the budget of the movie.

Nevertheless, since creating an entire page of newspaper every time a character is picking up one for a glance is a time-consuming process, it is far better to just purchase a stack of Earl Hays fake papers for just $15 each. Sometimes if they have some left over they'll recycle them for another job.

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  • @Jeeped Brands don't always like to be used in movies, TV, etc. Hence lots of blurring in reality shows of products that are used by the people featured but not licensed. Recently it was revealed that Apple doesn't want IPhones to be used by "baddies". I can imagine that some brands wouldn't object to be included but would demand a fee, just like movies and TV shows have to pay to use music etc. – BCdotWEB Mar 27 at 13:23
  • One of my former editors at a newspaper used to have a side gig making mock, realistic newspaper pages for production companies. – jeffronicus Mar 27 at 17:06
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Many of these generic products were real in the 1970s and early 1980s, as highlighted in this History's Dumpster blog post and Gone But Not Forgotten Groceries blog post.

The 1970s were a era of inflation in the United States, with inflation reaching 12.4% per year by 1980. Generic brands were a response to soaring grocery bills; they were cheaper for reasons including that no money was spent on advertising to promote them or make attractive packaging. I remember they also came with some stigma, since the distinctive look made it hard to conceal you were buying the cheapest items available.

At the time, the unbranded look could also make it easier to use items in movie and television productions, since if nothing else you could slap generic labels on dozens of empty cans without having to make realistic labels (much harder to design and print with the period's technology) or spend money on cans, boxes, or bottles with real labels filled with real product.

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Repo Man and Suicidal Tendencies were using an actual product brand. The Generic Brand products were meant to be a cheaper alternative to name brand foods.

From the New York Times

BLACK lettering, usually on a white background, identifies the contents. ''Corn.'' Or ''Peas.'' Or ''Paper Towels.'' Next to the color-splashed packages and well-known brand names lined up on supermarket shelves, generic products stand out in their stark simplicity.BLACK lettering, usually on a white background, identifies the contents. ''Corn.'' Or ''Peas.'' Or ''Paper Towels.'' Next to the color-splashed packages and well-known brand names lined up on supermarket shelves, generic products stand out in their stark simplicity.

But easy as they are to spot, generics - bargain-priced merchandise sold without a brand name or, for the most part, advertising - are becoming harder to find.

Introduced in the mid-1970's when inflation was high, the no-name products grew in popularity for a few years. But since 1983, their sales have steadily declined - almost to the point of extinction today in many supermarkets. Among the reasons, say analysts, are an improved economy, more price-cutting promotions by brand-name products and persistent consumer doubts about the quality of generic items.

And a commercial from the Jewel grocery chain from 1981

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  • The letters clearly are not black but blue. – BCdotWEB Mar 27 at 20:16
  • @BCdotWEB Yes they are. And in some areas the packaging was yellow with black text. Different designs but the same generic brand. – Legion600 Mar 28 at 14:50
  • I mean the letters on the products in the question. – BCdotWEB Mar 28 at 23:55

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