Topic: Book Club

Brand Names Going Generic

Posted by Anonymous on 125 Points
Al and Laura say, "having a brand name that is also used generically is an enormous marketing advantage." I.E. Kleenex. To me, ALL tissue is called Kleenex. I don't ask for a tissue, I ask for a Kleenex.

Do you agree with the authors that this is an advantage, or do you think it weakens the brand?
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  • Posted on Accepted
    This is a definite advantage with Google being the most relevant example I can think of. A few years ago when people started using the word "Google" in place of "Internet search" the entire brand exploded. The word may have started being used as a verb among Internet-savvy kids, but when it made it's way into TV shows it quickly became a mainstream word. I'm not sure if Google paid for product placement, but I remember the first few times I heard it used was on television when characters would talk about "Googling" a guy they just met, or even their own names. I'll admit, I've Googled my name in the past just to see what comes up, and I have had old classmates find me by the same route. I don't think it's a coincidence that Google is consistently the number one search engine and its name is used in place of Internet search. Do you?
  • Posted on Accepted
    Not sure if I am allowed since i am not a Book Club member, but here goes...

    I think going forward this will be a neutral factor at best. In the past it used to be a decided advantage since it was a proxy for both mindshare and market share. But now that the heat has been turned way up on marketing in the past few years, a brand needs to do much much more - on an emotional and experiential level. Here are just 2 examples.

    When you are of a "certain age" like me, you remember saying "make a Xerox" whenever you wanted a copy, even if the machine in your office was a Canon. But I don't think i've heard anyone use that vernacular in the past 5 years. Xerox has done absolutely nothing in a decade at least to effectively promote the corporate brand (granted it has had more significant business issues to deal with). And even if people know it - it is as a cold, technology "emotion."

    The second, and more recent, example is TiVo. What an opportunity squandered. Can you name another DVR company? Yet even with its lead, I don't see it becoming a sustaining "Xerox" type of mention (a la "i tivoed the show last nite").

    In addition to the important factors of years past, a brand needs to have a strong emotional resonance and provide a memorable experience. TiVo does neither.

    Net (IMHO): Any marketer (or agency) focusing on this as a goal should be redirected to more important, more current brand objectives.
  • Posted on Member
    I think it's a definite advantage, and I think in the mind of the consumer, if your brand name goes generic, it represents a better or the best product in the consumer's mind.
  • Posted on Member
    Having your unique brand name become the generic work for the category means your brand is the Real Thing in the mind of the consumer for that category. And this is an enormous advantage. If you stay focused, you can own and dominate that category in the mind.

    Many companies just cannot resist the temptation to extend however. This of course undermines the power of that generic in the mind as well as hinders the success of any expansion.

    Kleenex tried to get into toilet paper.

    Xerox made computers. (They famously ran an ad that said "This Xerox cannot make a copy")

    Google has moved into everything from email, to videos to maps. The more they expand the brand the weaker it will become.

    For more details on Google check out this blog post:

    In reference to the Puffs comment, it is very funny. Because Puffs is a perfect example of a second brand. Puffs is made by Kleenex, it is their super premium brand. Maybe not the perfect name like Kleenex, but better than Kleenex Plus. And Puffs has become a big brand.

    TiVo is indeed used generically. I always talk about TiVoing shows with friends. And I watch TiVo at night not television. Part of the problem here is that they have a great brand but are losing lots of money. And part of that problems comes from the fact they tried to build the brand with massive advertising. Never a good idea.

    Read more about this on my blog:
  • Posted on Member

    Thanks for comments. I should have been clearer in what I meant about TiVo - i know it is used generically now (given that it was first!). I want to emphasize i the wrod I included = "sustaining." My sense/prediction is you won't hear people say "I tivoed xyz show" in as short as a year from now.


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