What Happens When Brand Names Become Synonymous With The Product?

One might think the holy grail of marketing is to have your brand name become a verb, such as Googling (or a cliché, like “holy grail,” which, once upon a time, was a term that actually referred to a specific thing in the universe: the holy chalice that Jesus drank from during The Last Supper–at least, this is what I learned from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade).

Well, it isn’t.

No, in fact, sometimes having your trademark name become synonymous with the product they represent, or as ubiquitous as a verb, can be harmful to your brand. This is because it reduces the brand equity. If everyone thinks of a Zipper as the thing that closes your coat or covers your crotch, then the Zipper brand itself doesn’t have any points of differentiation against its competitors. There is less value to the Zipper brand, as it is just that thing, no matter who makes it.

Which proves the point: did you even know that Zipper was a brand unto itself? Maybe you did, you cheeky marketing nerd. But I bet most lay people didn’t. (Another great example of this going sour is in the movie Kingpin, where “getting Munsoned” means to be get royally screwed when you’re in your prime.)

So without further ado, here are some trademark names that became so associated with the products or services they represent, that the word became used in general parlance.

Brands That Have Become Products

  1. Zipper
  2. Jacuzzi – it’s actually a “hot tub.”
  3. Google – no one ever says “I’ll Askjeeves it for you.”
  4. Kleenex
  5. Q-Tip – so much better than “tiny eardrum-destroying cotton swab”
  6. Crock-Pot – I’ve never actually liked this name for something associated with food.
  7. Onesies
  8. Band Aid
  9. Chapstick — lip balm
  10. Xerox
  11. Breathalyzer
  12. Jet Ski
  13. Bubble Wrap
  14. Seeing Eye Dog
  15. Sheetrock
  16. Fluffernutter
  17. Ping Pong – actually it’s “table tennis”
  18. Scotch Tape
  19. Sharpie (permanent marker)
  20. Realtor – as anyone in real estate the difference between “Realtor” and “real estate agent” and then make some popcorn  and get comfortable, because you’ll be sitting there for a while.
  21. Tupperware
  22. Velcro
  23. Wite out
  24. Weedeater (weed wacker)
  25. Taser
  26. X-acto Knife
  27. Dumpster
  28. Popsicle
  29. Rollerblades – I don’t care what you call them, inline skates or rollerblades, they’re always/never cool
  30. Novocain
  31. Post-It Notes
  32. Ouija Board
  33. Plexiglass
  34. Styrofoam – always wondered why Microsoft Word capitalized this word
  35. Formica
  36. Frisbee
  37. Hula Hoop
  38. Slip N’ Slide
  39. Windbreaker
  40. Stetson (hat)
  41. Powerpoint – slide deck
  42. GED – high school equivalency diploma

Final Thoughts

So is it good to have your brand name turn into a verb, or a cliche? I don’t think it is. But if people one day start saying they’re “Mandelling” and it means coming up with genius ideas, or writing the Great American Novel, I’ll take it.