“Google it.” “Did you Xerox the report?” “Please FedEx it.”
Once upon a time, using a brand name as a verb was verboten. It was behavior that would drive a trademark lawyer crazy.
But more and more marketers are deciding that the grand slam of branding is to become part of the language – in effect, having your trademark substitute in everyday usage for the type of action or service that your mark identifies. Could there be, they argue, any clearer expression of a brand’s leadership?
“Skype me when you get to Lisbon.”
“Did you TiVo the awards show?”
“Dad’s outside, Simonizing the car.”
In other words, just verb it!
The proper care and feeding of trademarks occupied an entire chapter in our 2004 book The Making of a Name (Oxford University Press). The International Trademark Association, for instance, advises never using a trademark as a verb: “Trademarks are products or services, never actions.”
The internet generation, though, is increasingly casual about naming protocols. Who other than a trademark attorney would say, “Let’s look it up on the Google brand search engine,” or “Let’s go in-line skating with Rollerblade in-line skates.” Get real.
Once upon a time, Xerox ran advertisements in magazines targeted to journalists and editors. “There are two R’s in Xerox,” said one famous headline, referring to the trademark “R” and reminding journalists not to use Xerox as a lower-case noun or verb.
Allow the use of your brand name generically, barristers would warn, and you lose – over time – your trademark rights. ’Tis true. Look up common words such as “aspirin” or “escalator” in the dictionary and you’ll realize they were once registered trademarks.
But in today’s hyperactive world, marketers are more concerned about getting known now, today, immediately – more so than weakening their naming rights later on.
Marketing author and gadfly Seth Godin likes to say, “Nouns just sit there, inanimate lumps. Verbs are about wants and desires and wishes.”
Which is why so many marketers encourage the verbifying of their precious brand names – and why so many consumers are so comfortable using them as everyday words.
Contributed to BSI by: Steve Rivkin
Sponsored By: Brand Aid