When it comes to using a brand name in a negative light, authors walk a very fine line. Brand “tarnishment” is vaguely analogous to defamation, and disparaging use of a brand name is often easier to find as publishing moves to the ebook and audiobook formats.
There’s more on this topic in an article I discovered.
This is quite an important thing for those of us who write satire or other fiction. But if, as the article above says, “Brand names should be reserved for describing that particular product or service offered by the company,” then, one might ask: how to avoid tarnishing trademarks? What other strategies are available?
The article gives one idea:
Unless there is a compelling artistic reason to disparage a brand, creating a fictional brand would be prudent.
It’s probably not hard to think of hypothetical examples: IBS computers, Microsell, Trigger-Appy (pushing the boat out into the realms of extravagance with the latter one, maybe).
But what other options might there be, other than such wordplays?
I will suggest other ideas, just off the top of my head.
And when I say off the top of my head, I really mean it!
So, the possible literary examples I provide by way of workarounds will not be very accomplished. There are for the purposes of illustration, and not to showcase my talent, or lack thereof.
(Whew! That was one hell of a sleazy weblog cop-out, wasn’t it?)
1. Does the brand need to have a name?
In fact, the fact that the brand in your fiction or satire doesn’t have a name could itself be an artistic device.
Even now, by the 17th millenium of the year of Gratia Sol Invictus (all serious attempts at Latin conjugation parsing being now an impossibility), everyone in the City of the Moon could not but resort to the eternal sacramental sipping of the same old tired and tediously nameless liquid poison, not to say pharmakon…
To wit, that which the transhuman species had sworn itself to imbibe since time immemorial; to say nothing of the mere human species of a more antiquely noviate epoch, the era of the Half-Earthly Son, and not of the Cosmic Spirit.
Centuries before, a notable software company had, as the benighted and atavistic would consider themselves worthy to pronounce, “cornered the market” in internet technology. Perhaps the erstwhile unphilosophical Untergang of the Mother Planet’s civilisation could not be attributed merely to the Splengeresque calamities wreaked by this malign anticke force, whose very name was no longer remembered; and yet, the misty memories of the grandchildren of Earth bore testimony to this legend, as a warning to the darkly hybristic and Daedelian corners of the diasporic entities now wandering, rootless and alone, in the vast, abandoned wasteland of the Cosmos.
(Yes, I know, Arthur C. Clarke is spinning in his cosmic cryogenics capsule. I did try to warn you about the poor writing quality. Still, you can probably guess that my pastiche style here is a little bit cheeky here, anyway).
2. Try using expired trademarks, possibly even putting a spin on them. Or even things that weren’t technically trademarks, because they originate from a time before trademarks.
Much as the Galactic Emperor’s words was deemed the Eternal Word, The Everlasting Dharma, the Immortal Al-Quran and Ageless Das Kapital of the benighted inferior planetary species-beings, it was never fully possible to assimilate the unresolved Lacanian surplus of underprivileged epistemic traitors and spiritual quibblemongers. The Inquisition of Andromeda was never fully capable of reconfiguring the intangible semiotic deviancies of the lexical units in the grand cosmic symphony of harmony.
I think I had best stop there. If you managed not to throw your laptop across the room (or indeed the entire street), congratulations. It takes real moral courage to questions your preconceptions about style.
They always say don’t talk down to your readers, of course. But like our dear old pomo extraordinario St John Cassian, I suppose I must preach to myself in the first instance. All else is but a sound and fury signifying…
Urgh. How tired and worn-out these old Shakespearean phrases sound.
But then again,in any case:
‘I for one, am not Shakespeare…’
An earlier version of this article appeared on my Wallace Runnymede blog.