Abstract Brand Placement in Star Trek: Discovery

I’ve pointed out the Under Armor brand’s clever infiltration of a galaxy far, far away in a prior post. Imagine my not-surprise to see them pull off the same feat in the new CBS Trek series.

This is Captain Lorca barking orders on the bridge of the Discovery, and that’s the starship UI’s alert status indicator hovering nearby. I wonder who manufactures Starfleet-issue uniforms in the 23rd.

How does this happen? An obvious answer is pareidolia, which means loosely that my brain’s pattern recognition module needs maintenance. Even so, that thing bears a pretty heavy resemblance to the Under Armor glyph, especially at a peripheral glance. Can that be an accident? This deliberately vague, hiding-in-plain-sight approach is a much sneakier and more effective way to project a brand impression. Most of us recognize its form without acknowledgement, and it’s gone again before our innate ad resistance kicks in.

Not for long, though. The alert status indicator is all over the bridge UI in most of the episodes so far. When not under red alert it still appears, often coloured for recognition in the background:

Starship UIs are perfect for this sort of placement because they’re fictional – who’s to say an ASI shouldn’t look unusually like an international brand?

I wouldn’t go so far as to call it insidious – in fact I think it’s genius – but it’s definitely a sign of things to come. Brand placement in blockbuster films to date (other than Rogue One) has been so ham-fisted that no one is fooled. This is much more subtle.