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Surprising stories about how the biggest, household name brands affect our lives and culture — for better or worse. Host Charlie Herman finds tales of tragedy, love, strange histories, unintended consequences, and accidental success.More information at

INTRODUCING: “Twenty Thousand Hertz” and THX
May 27 • 23 min
While we finish up our new season, check out this episode from Twenty Thousand Hertz. It’s a podcast that tells the stories behind the world’s most recognizable sounds. This episode is about THX, that deep, swelling effect you hear right before a movie…
BONUS: Where is Hidden Valley Ranch?
May 20 • 7 min
In this bonus episode, we open up our customer service lines to answer a burning question from one of our listeners: Is there really a Hidden Valley? And does it have a ranch?
BONUS: Brand Aid
May 6 • 11 min
What’s the right way to sell people hamburgers, cars, or anything, really, during a global pandemic? In this bonus episode, Charlie talks to Business Insider’s Tanya Dua and Meredith Haggerty from “The Goods” by Vox about the state of pandemic advertising…
INTRODUCING: “Proof” and the Miracle Berry
Apr 22 • 42 min
While we work on a new season of episodes, here’s another podcast to check out: Proof, from America’s Test Kitchen. The Proof team tackles big questions about what we eat and explores the hidden stories behind the foods we love. In this episode, we learn…
47: Drinking Buddies: Jack Daniel and Nearest Green
Apr 8 • 33 min
Jack Daniel’s is the top-selling whiskey in the world. For more than 150 years, it’s been made using time-honored methods that go back to when Jack Daniel made the whiskey himself. (Yes, he was a real person.) But who taught “Mr. Jack” how to make that…
46: Makin’ Whoopee Cushion
Apr 1 • 27 min
April Fools’ pranks come and go, but one joke item that’s stood the test of time is the whoopee cushion. Today, we trace its history from ancient Rome to now. Where did it come from? Why is it funny? Will it stay popular? And if everyone knows its name,…
45: Heard It Through the Grapevine
Mar 25 • 44 min
The 1980’s TV commercials for California raisins have been called some of the best ads ever made. The claymation raisins singing and dancing to Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” became a kids TV show, recorded an album that went platinum,…
44: All That Jazzercise
Mar 18 • 37 min
Since Jazzercise started over 50 years ago, hundreds of thousands of (mostly) women have come together to exercise and get fit. But if you think Jazzercise is just jazz hands and shoulder rolls, you’re missing out on the bigger story, one about women…
43: A Tale of Two Spams
Mar 11 • 33 min
In Hawaii, Spam is served at grandma’s house and in high-end restaurants. It’s beloved. But in the continental U.S., the canned pork product is often the punchline of jokes. Why does Spam have such different meanings in different places? The answer…
42: The Widow Clicquot
Mar 4 • 36 min
More than two hundred years ago in Napoleonic France, the business world was walled off to women, and champagne was a luxury reserved for the ruling class. So then how did a young widow take over her husband’s struggling wine business and turn champagne…
41: The Red (M&M) Scare
Feb 26 • 38 min
From the mid 1970s to the mid ‘80s, red M&M’s disappeared. American consumers had become worried about the safety of red food coloring after some questionable Russian studies prompted the FDA to look into whether one particular dye might be causing cancer…
40: The Marlboro Woman
Feb 19 • 37 min
Marlboro cigarettes are synonymous with the rugged figure who sells them: the Marlboro Man. But the cigarette he smokes was originally marketed to women, and its journey from the lips of debutantes to the hands of cowboys takes us from first-wave feminism…
Trailer: We’re back!
Feb 5 • 1 min
Starting February 19, we’re back with new stories about the brands you *think* you know. Tune in this season to learn about the women who paved the way for Marlboro’s most famous mascot, the red scare that changed M&M’s history, Spam’s double life in the…
39: Scoot Over?
Nov 13, 2019 • 36 min
About two years ago, companies like Bird and Lime deposited thousands of dockless electric scooters in San Diego. Some people loved them… and some people hated them. While city officials considered what to do, two guys decided they’d had enough and took…
38: The Coed Scouts of America
Nov 6, 2019 • 39 min
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) caused a stir when it reversed its “no girls allowed” rule for the Boy Scouts last year. But it turns out, this isn’t the first time the BSA has gone coed. We take a closer look at what happened, and one Sea Scout reflects…
37: Battle of the Brands: Leo Fender vs Les Paul
Oct 30, 2019 • 33 min
When Leo Fender and Les Paul met, they didn’t have much in common — one was an introverted tinkerer, the other a rising star. But their electric guitars defined the sound of rock ‘n’ roll. Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix brought…
Trailer: Household Name becomes Brought To You By…
Oct 23, 2019 • 1 min
Meet our new host, Charlie Herman, and hear what’s in store next week, when we return with a brand new episode of Brought To You By… Coming up this season: a decades-long guitar battle, the first time the Boy Scouts of America went coed, and an electric…
Introducing: Lost at the Smithsonian
Sep 26, 2019 • 7 min
Household Name will be back with brand new episodes soon! But in the meantime, check out “Lost at the Smithsonian,” a new podcast from Stitcher. Comedian and pop culture fanatic Aasif Mandvi gets up close and personal with the most iconic artifacts at the…
36: A town called DISH
Jun 12, 2019 • 46 min
When a small town in Texas changed its name to DISH, the satellite TV company gave its residents free TV for a decade. What DISH Network didn’t know was that the name change was a way for one local politician to get revenge on another. PLUS: we take to…
35: You’ve got Enron mail!
Jun 5, 2019 • 41 min
Enron collapsed nearly 20 years ago, but chances are something you use today was affected by emails sent by 150 of the company’s top employees. These emails — about meetings and energy markets but also affairs, divorces, and fraud — have helped create new…
34: The Legend of the Atari Burial
May 29, 2019 • 34 min
Was Atari’s E.T. video game the worst of all time? Did it sink the entire video game industry in the early 1980s? Did Atari really bury thousands of copies in a New Mexico desert to cover it up? We dig into the old legend and uncover some answers. Sign up…
33: Muzak listening, and Alexa eavesdropping
May 22, 2019 • 37 min
We have two stories this week: first, the surprising history “elevator music.” Turns out, Muzak was a real company. And then we reveal how much Amazon’s Alexa and other smart speakers are really listening — and remembering what we do and say. Sign up for…
32: Who owns the Oakland A’s?
May 15, 2019 • 37 min
In the 1970s, the Oakland A’s were the most bonkers team in baseball. They had bright yellow and green uniforms, iconic handlebar mustaches, and a live donkey for a mascot. It was an eccentric owner’s way of getting attention. But those gimmicks didn’t…
31: Bill Nye the GMO Guy
May 1, 2019 • 37 min
Back in 2014, Bill Nye The Science Guy was skeptical of genetically modified foods, or GMOs. It raised some eyebrows when he abruptly changed his mind after visiting Monsanto - the huge biochemical agriculture company that was acquired by Bayer. What…
30: What does a brand sound like?
Apr 24, 2019 • 34 min
Companies spend a lot of time and effort perfecting the look of their brands. But now what a brand sounds like matters just as much. We trace the history from songs to jingles to what’s called sonic branding, following the creative process that led to…
29: LaCroix, Canada Goose, and Carhartt are cool. Why?
Apr 17, 2019 • 37 min
Some brands aren’t cool no matter how hard they try. Others start out cool, but lose their cachet over time. Then there are the brands that somehow, surprisingly turn cool. Without really changing their products, LaCroix, Canada Goose, and Carhartt became…
28: Victoria’s Secret is Out
Apr 10, 2019 • 36 min
For decades, two men at Victoria’s Secret have had immense power. One built the chain into a powerhouse. The other ran the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, handpicking the models called “angels.” Then many started to question its standards of beauty. So…
27: Harley-Davidson Rides to Live
Apr 3, 2019 • 36 min
Harley-Davidson spent more than a century branding its motorcycles as the bikes for rebels and macho cowboys. They’re made in America, for Americans. But Harley’s core customers are aging and before long will die out. Younger generations aren’t stepping…
26: The Best a Woman Can Gillette
Feb 27, 2019 • 35 min
Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin always figured razor companies convinced women to start shaving. But when they looked into it, they discovered the question of why women shave is much more complicated than they thought. The answer involves painted on…
25: The VW Beetle’s Dark Past
Feb 20, 2019 • 37 min
The Volkswagen Beetle is a symbol of peace, love, and harmony. It’s also a product of Nazi Germany. The story of how the Beetle transformed from Hitler’s car to the Love Bug involves a British army major and a surprising team of advertisers.
24: An International Amazon Mystery
Feb 13, 2019 • 36 min
Danielle wanted a copy of “Pride and Prejudice,” so she clicked the top result on Amazon. The book that came in the mail was too big with type that was too small. The introduction was laughable. The story of how this book came to be took us halfway around…
23: Apple 1984
Feb 6, 2019 • 37 min
In the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII, Apple ran a commercial that changed the Super Bowl and Apple forever. But it almost never aired. Featuring original interviews with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, former CEO John Sculley, and the ad’s creators,…
22: Martha Stewart in the Middle
Jan 30, 2019 • 35 min
Less than a decade after Martha Stewart left prison, she was in court again. It was a three-way fight between Martha, Macy’s, and JCPenney that could have played out in a middle school cafeteria. And the fight raised an intriguing question: What exactly…
21: Crocs: From Punchline to Fashion Line
Jan 23, 2019 • 34 min
For years, Crocs were ridiculed as America’s ugliest shoes. The’ve been called “pock-faced,” “plastic hoofs,” and the “garden gnome of fashion.” But now, they’re actual fashion, thanks to some help from top name designers and celebrities. Crocs are in.…
20: Does Panera Care?
Jan 16, 2019 • 35 min
What happens when a restaurant chain tries a bold experiment that tests human nature? If you ask customers to pay what they want for a sandwich, will they help others in need? PLUS: Customer Service tackles “genericide.” It happened to the Elevator.
19: Kentucky Fried Christmas
Dec 19, 2018 • 43 min
How did Colonel Sanders and Kentucky Fried Chicken take over Christmas in Japan? PLUS: Household Name Uncut covers some Christmas decorating gone horribly wrong and the curse of the colonel.
18: Resting Botox Face
Nov 28, 2018 • 37 min
Look a little angry? Accused of having a “resting bitch face”? Now, there’s a drug for that: Botox. The early joke about Botox was that it froze faces. But increasingly, people are seeking a different effect: actually altering their expressions, and maybe…
17: Better Call Butterball
Nov 21, 2018 • 35 min
Butterball turkey experts have been answering your burning turkey questions since 1981. This week, we hear from the turkey talkers about the wildest calls and how to pull off a “perfect” Thanksgiving dinner. Then listeners call into our own Turkey…
16: NASA Uncut
Nov 14, 2018 • 41 min
We don’t think of most government agencies as brands, but NASA is different. This year is the space agency’s 60th anniversary, so we’re diving into NASA’s brand history to bring you little-known stories about a meatball and a worm, some astronauts with…
15: The Waffle House Index
Nov 7, 2018 • 37 min
When a disaster hits the South, chances are the local Waffle House will be back open in no time. The 24-hour breakfast chain is so good at responding to storms that FEMA uses it to determine where to deploy disaster aid. How does Waffle House get up and…
14: Sears: There Was More For Your Life
Oct 31, 2018 • 36 min
Before Sears filed for bankruptcy, it was run by a reclusive billionaire who’d call into meetings from his mansion on a Florida island. It was one of the unusual ways Eddie Lampert ran the department store chain. He also stopped investing in the stores.…
13: Gangs? At Disneyland?
Oct 24, 2018 • 34 min
Once upon a time, gangs roamed Disneyland in biker vests. They swarmed rides. They got in fights. Or so we thought… The real story is kind of a classic Disney fairy tale: about a princess and her merry band of friends. But is there a happily ever after?
12: A Wrench in Tesla
Oct 17, 2018 • 37 min
This year, Tesla’s image took a hit. The company fell behind on production targets, reports came out that it may be skipping safety tests and making mistakes on the production line, creating more waste. It didn’t help that Elon Musk smoked weed on a…
11: The Amway Dream
Oct 3, 2018 • 35 min
Amway is a multi-level marketing company: the structure is triangular, but don’t call it a pyramid scheme. The Federal Trade Commission already tried and failed. Now, hundreds of MLMs like Amway are embedded in America’s towns and cities, and in the…
10: The Macy’s Home Department
Sep 26, 2018 • 36 min
The Macy’s at Landmark Mall in Alexandria, Virginia closed its doors for good a year ago. Then, the whole mall shut down. The empty department store become a homeless shelter. And a woman who once worked there, found herself sleeping there.
9: The Mattress Firm Conspiracy Theory
Sep 19, 2018 • 37 min
We go on a mission to find out why there are so many Mattress Firm stores. How do they end up next door and across the street from each other? Are the mattresses full of money? Reddit users started a conspiracy theory, so we teamed up with WBUR and…
8: The Jell-O Curse
Sep 12, 2018 • 39 min
Allie Rowbottom’s life is built on a Jell-O fortune, just like it was for the lives of her mother and her grandmother. But along with the wealth from America’s most famous dessert, there came a curse. Now the most recent heir to the Jell-O fortune, Allie…
7: The Bodies at the Brooks Brothers
Sep 5, 2018 • 36 min
There’s a Brooks Brothers store across the street from the World Trade Center in New York. Shortly after the attacks on September 11, a young doctor named Sandeep Jauhar headed to ground zero to help. He ended up at the store, which was transformed into a…
6: Basically Starbucks
Aug 29, 2018 • 37 min
A Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks is the perfect accessory for the “basic bitch.” But why? We dive into the PSL’s origin story, and trace Starbucks’ route from elitist to basic. PLUS: Product Misplacement with Jean Edelstein.
5: The Coca-Cola President
Aug 22, 2018 • 37 min
Not many Presidents can say they got their start driving soda trucks around their country. Mexico’s former President Vicente Fox can, though. We find out what role Coca-Cola played in his rise to power, and investigate Coke’s unprecedented domination in…
4: Trader Joe’s No-Buck Chuck
Aug 15, 2018 • 34 min
Trader Joe’s “Two-Buck Chuck” is the wine that got many of us through college. But when we found out that “Chuck” – or Charles Shaw – is a real guy, we had to know more. Turns out the real Charles Shaw has a wild winemaking past full of gambles,…
3: The Last Blockbuster
Aug 8, 2018 • 35 min
How has Blockbuster Video survived against the odds so long in Alaska, and what will its decline mean? Before the world’s last Blockbuster stores disappear forever, we pay them a visit on the last frontier to find out.
2: Donald and Ivana’s Affair (with Pizza Hut)
Aug 1, 2018 • 41 min
When Pizza Hut can’t get anyone to buy their new Stuffed Crust Pizza, help comes from an unlikely pair: Donald and Ivana Trump. We hear the behind the scenes making of this ad, and in turn, the making of a president. PLUS: Our first installment of Uncut…
1: TGI Fridays: The Tinder of the 1960s
Jul 25, 2018 • 36 min
You wouldn’t know it from the tired decor at TGI Fridays today, but this family restaurant has a sexy past. It was once a game-changing singles bar, which arrived on the cusp of the sexual revolution. We go back to the 60s and 70s to experience the…
Household Name Trailer
Jul 17, 2018 • 1 min
Business Insider is teaming up with Stitcher to bring you surprising stories behind the brands we all know, whether we love them or loathe them. Host Dan Bobkoff will change the way you think about Pizza Hut, TGI Fridays, Starbucks, and dozens of other…