Branding

Pretend Profits


Pretend Profits

Photograph by Matt Sayles/AP Images

Last year the office-supply retailer Quill.com launched a Dunder Mifflin paper line, a tribute to the fictional manufacturer from the long-running NBC series The Office. It was a risky bet: The show, now in its final season, has lost much of its cultural relevancy (in November only 4.1 million viewers tuned in, a series low). And America’s office-supply industry is in sharp decline, too, with brick-and-mortar store sales falling an average 3.6 percent annually during the last five years, according to market researcher IBISWorld. Nonetheless, Quill, in a licensing deal with NBCUniversal (CMCSA), has built Dunder Mifflin into a million-dollar brand. It’s the site’s third-best-selling product. Last month, Quill announced it will expand Dunder Mifflin beyond reams of paper to include markers, sticky notes, tissues, disposable cups, storage boxes, and notepads. Here are some other notable brands that began in the world of make-believe—and a few that outperformed their inspiration.

Venessa-wong-190x190
Wong is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @venessawwong.

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