'Genericide'

...or 'Brandslaughter'

Hello again, and a very happy week to you from all in the Gasp office. I thought instead of eulogising about various ads, or attempting to tear them apart like fresh na’an bread, I’d talk about brand ‘genericide’.

It may sound trivial, but the whole concept of brand equity is entirely perceptual after all, and it’ll have serious implications for Pritt Stick’s bottom-line, that.

Genericide occurs when a brand name becomes so ubiquitous that it enters the lexicon as a generic term for the product in general. The most cited examples of this are probably ‘hoover’ and ‘sellotape’.

Unlike ‘nazivertising’ (see previous blog!) ‘genericide’ isn’t a term I’ve invented I’m afraid; otherwise I would have been very proud of it. I tried to come up with my own, and in client-side patois I ‘reached ideation’ with ‘brandslaughter’ – which isn’t quite as good is it.

Anyway, I naively thought it was axiomatic that people using a brand name habitually was a good thing for that brand. I mean, surely if the brand name enters common parlance then that’s marketing nirvana isn’t it?

Perhaps it’s true of straplines, everyone in the industry must dream of creating a ‘You either love it or you hate it’ or ‘It does exactly what it says on the tin.’ But after a little digging I’ve found out that when the same happens to a brand name it’s actually a great hulking problem.

And when you think about it for a sec, it seems obvious. If a brand name becomes just a word for the product then the brand completely loses its edge over imitators. The competitors simply nick a slice of the brand equity by default, because the consumer attaches the name to the competitor’s products as well.

For example, I went next door to WH Smith’s to buy a Pritt Stick yesterday and I opted for the cheaper ‘own brand’ version, because I’m a skinflint. But regardless, in my head and to everyone else in the office, I bought a ‘pritt stick’. And we’ll refer to it as ‘the pritt stick’, even though it’s actually a ‘WH Smith’s gluestick’.

It may sound trivial, but the whole concept of brand equity is entirely perceptual after all, and it’ll have serious implications for Pritt Stick’s bottom-line, that.

In this way, brands are sometimes mortally wounded by their own achievement. The final ‘coup de grace’ is delivered by the judiciary oddly enough. Because if intellectual property lawyers can convince a court that a brand name has entered common parlance as a generic term, then by law that brand loses it’s exclusive trademark. Thus ‘brandslaughter’ is committed (that’s right; I’m going with brandslaughter!).

Well known victims of this are: ‘thermos’ ‘aspirin’ ‘cellophane’ and ‘heroin’ bizzarely!

Apparently ‘Xerox’ in the U.S is heading in this unfortunate direction. In fact it’s got to the point that the script of this sketch is an entirely verbatim transcript from a deposition for The Supreme Court of Ohio. Oh and it’s jolly funny too.

It genuinely fascinates me to find out which words we commonly use today started life as brand names. (The same’s true of collective nouns for some reason, I mean ‘An unkindness of ravens’ – that’s sheer gold isn’t it!?)
Perhaps it’s because I’m envisioning having other invitees at dinner parties captivated as I reel them off over After-Eights and brandy.

However I’m twenty-five, and tragically yet to be invited to a dinner party like that.

But if you’re a little more sophisticated in your social life than I am dear reader, then perhaps the following list will help you bridge a lull in conversation...

Airfix, Astroturf, Biro, Bubble-Wrap, Dictaphone, Filofax, Frisbee, Hacky Sack, Jacuzzi, Jet Ski, Lava Lamp, Lilo, Onesie, Perspex, Stanley Knife, Tannoy and Velcro…are all brand names. Would you ‘Adam and Eve’ it.

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