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Brand names for innovative products20 Dec

pampersIf you are about to launch an innovative product, the kind that has never existed before, you’d better give it a great name — memorable, snappy and easy to pronounce.

But what if your product becomes so popular, that it gives rise to a whole new product category? So popular, that people begin referring to this new category by your product name.


“I am going to get more pampers for my baby.”

“Give me a kleenex, I have a cold.”

“Let’s take a thermos on our trip.”

“Let’s make some jell-o for dessert.”

Pampers, Kleenex, Thermos and Jello-O all used to be innovative products that essentially established totally new product categories. Nowadays, people go shopping for “pampers” even if they will end up buying a box of Huggies.

This phenomenon is called genericide, or a “threat of the brand name being used as a generic term.”1

Is genericide good or bad for your brand?

On the one hand, one could argue that it is good.  After all, it demonstrates very high awareness about your brand. However, this brand awareness may not necessarily lead to purchases of your brand, since its popularity will prompt other copycat brands to appear. And it may lead to customers buying them, whilst referring to them by the name of your brand.

Whereas there’s probably little you can do to prevent competitors from launching similar products, you might want to make sure that genericide does not have negative consequences on the brand of  your innovative product.

Professor Judith Lynne   Zaichkowsky from Copenhagen Business School suggests the following methods that brand managers can use to protect their brands from genericide:2

  • use the trademark as a descriptive adjective, such as Rollerblade ® in-line skates or I-POD ® MP3 player.
  • use the trademark notice in advertising and labelling, for example, BLACKBERRY ®
  • display the brand name with special typographical treatment — font matters!
  • extend the brand name to other related product categories
the threat of the brand name being used as
a generic term

In other words, successful protection of a brand name involves much more than attention to the name itself – it a brand strategy that affects a whole company.

  1. Taylor ,  C .  and  Walsh ,  M . G .  ( 2002 )  Legal strategies for protecting brands from genericide: Recent trends in evidence weighted in court cases .  Journal of Public Policy and Marketing  21 (1) :  160 – 167 . []
  2. J.L. Zaichkowsky, Strategies for distinctive brands, Journal of Brand Management (2010)  17, 548 – 560 []

Related posts:

  1. Brand names and what’s behind them
  2. Innovative advertising spaces
  3. Interplay between brand strategy and innovation
  4. Learn to speak the language of your brand
  5. Need rebranding? Don’t just change your logo, think brand strategy

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About Olga

Olga Slavkina is an international brand and marketing strategy expert based in Brussels and managing partner of SCHMOOZY FOX. Originally from Latvia, Olga was educated in the United States, where she was a Fulbright student at The Fletcher School (Tufts University), and Spain. She holds an MBA from IE Business school in Madrid, which holds the No. 1 position in the 2012 Financial Times ranking of European business schools.

Fluent in several European languages, Olga works with companies around the world to help them launch new products and services, reposition existing ones, and make them relevant and meaningful to their customers.

Olga’s expert opinion on branding and marketing has been featured in Financial Times, TechCrunch, Personal Branding Blog and other publications. Olga’s concept of Funky Brands™ has been nominated for the Accenture Innovation Award 2011. Olga tweets as @schmoozyfox.

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SCHMOOZY FOX is based in Brussels, Belgium and serves customers internationally.

 

Email: olga (at) schmoozyfox (dot) com