Google, Uber and the Act of Verbifying

Consumers use a dominant brand and ‘verbify or verbing’ it. Xerox instead of Photocopy. If your brand becomes a part of the everyday lexicon then it is a sign that is highly recognized and widely accepted.

We Zoom or Facetime but not Google Meet. We Whatsapp each other but not FB Messenger. We Google for information rather than search. We Xerox copies of documents rather than photocopying them. We Photoshop images rather than tweak them. And we Uber rather than hire a vehicle for transport.

Consumers use a dominant brand and ‘verbify or verbing’ it. Why do people do it, honestly no one has any proper idea. No one says I Bing for information. Etymologists have coined the term Anthimeria – used to describe the act of using a word in a new grammatical form, most often a noun as a verb. 

If your brand becomes a part of the everyday lexicon then it is a sign that is highly recognized and widely accepted. Most marketers think this is the ultimate and established an emotional connection between the brand and its users. 

However on the flip side – there is brand dilution and negative connotations like genericization of a trademark. When a brand enters everyday usage then there is a possibility that the brand value decreases. It is also difficult for the brand owner to profit from it.

These can be local for example – Bisleri is used for Packaged drinking water in India. In Northern India, people say Mobil instead of engine oil.

There have been campaigns by many brands to actually reference the context of the brand. Xerox, for many years, asked customers to not use the name “Xerox” as a verb rather use“photocopy”. Closer home Bisleri insisted that not all bottled drinking water was Bisleri!

In case you want to try to make your brand verbified, here are some pointers

a) Keep your brand name short and simple – Google, Uber, Kiwi – Simple to say, and have a few syllables. The shorter it is and easier to pronounce and chances are better

b) Replace a complex phrase of action with the word – Will you say I will search on the net for information or I will Google it?

c) Market it – Communicate it across all channels. Social media, collateral, press ads…everywhere. 

And for the record, Shakespeare was a serial verber!

Here is a list of brands that have transitioned from noun to Verb

 1) Kiwi fruit (Kiwi):

This trademark has been owned by Zespri since 1997. The name has been in use since 1962 when New Zealand growers wanted to increase the fruit’s market appeal.

Actually, it is – A Chinese Gooseberry

2) Zipper:

Created by B.F. Goodrich Company for use in rubber boots.

Actually, it is A clasp locker or zip fastener

3) Windbreaker: 

Trademark owned by the John Rissman company of Chicago

Actually, it is A lightweight jacket

4) Jet Ski:

Trademarked by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. 

Actually, it is: A personal watercraft

5. Escalator

Trademarked by Otis in 1900

Actually, it is: A moving stairway/staircase

6. Tabloid

Trademarked by Burroughs Wellcome & Co as a word for compressed medicine/pills, but in the early 1900s, it became a widely accepted term for compressed, short-form journalism.

7. Jet Ski

Trademarked by Kawasaki in 1973

Actually, it is Stand-up personal watercraft

8. Hula Hoop:

Trademarked by Wham O in 1958. A hit song by Omi made it famous 

Actually, it is – A dancing ring or toy hoop

9. Band-Aid:

Probably one of the most widely-known genericized brands, trademarked by Johnson & Johnson in 1920

Actually, it is An adhesive bandage

10. Ping Pong:

Ping Pong is actually the name of a brand of table tennis tables, not the game itself. It was coined from the sound the ball makes when hit and originally trademarked by Jaques & Son back in 1901.

Actually, it is Table Tennis

12. Dumpster

Trademarked by the Dempster Brothers in 1936, this name was a mix of “Dempster” and “dump.”

Actually, it is Mobile Garbage Bin

13. Velcro

Invented by George de Mastreal in 1941 during a walk in the woods with his pet dog. Trademarked by Velcro Industries in 1958

Actually, it is Hook and loop fasteners

14. Yo-Yo:

This term was introduced and trademarked by Duncan in 1929. It was, however, deemed generic in the U.S. in 1965.

Actually, it is A toy on a string

15. Zip Code:

This was originally a registered service mark by the U.S. Postal Service but has long since expired.

16. Popsicle:

First trademarked in 1905 by Frank Epperson, now owned by Unilever who state overtly in the footer of its website that “POPSICLE®…is NOT a name for just any frozen pop on a stick.”

Actually, it is A frozen ice treat on a stick

17. Thermos:

Trademarked by Thermos, LLC in 1904.

Actually, it is: Vacuum Flask

18. Granola :

Trademarked In 1921 by Sanitarium Foods (a company owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia) 

19. Frisbee:

Trademarked by Wham-O in 1957, the rights to this one are still going strong.

Actually, it is A flying disc.

 20. Rollerblade:

Trademarked by Nordica.

Actually, it is Inline skates

21. Super Glue :

Trademarked name of the strong, fast-acting adhesive marketed by the Super Glue Corporation.

Actually, it is Cyanoacrylate adhesive

22 Jacuzzi:

Trademarked in 1956 by the Jacuzzi brothers. 

Actually, it is A hot tub.

23. Bubble Wrap:

Trademarked by the Sealed Air Corporation in 1960

Actually, it is Air bubble packaging

24. Trampoline:

Created by George Nissen and Larry Griswold in 1936 and trademarked in 1942 after the Spanish word “trampolin,” meaning diving board.

25. Google

26. Q-Tips

A noun referring to any cotton, personal care swab on a stick.

27. Ziploc

A noun referring to any plastic snack bag.

28. ChapStick

A noun referring to any lip balm or lip moisturizer. 

29. Kleenex

A noun referring to any facial tissue.

30. Powerpoint

A noun referring to any digital slide deck presentation. 

31. Photoshop

A verb meaning to edit or alter an image digitally; to enhance one’s appearance digitally. 

32. Play-Doh

A noun referring to any coloured, moulding clay for children.

33. Vaseline

A noun referring to any petroleum jelly product.

34. Jeep

A noun referring to any topless, outdoor vehicle.

35. Post-Its

A noun referring to any small notepaper with self-adhesive.

36. Walkman

A noun referring to any portable device that allows you to listen to music; specifically from the 1980-90s.

37. Polo

A noun referring to any short-sleeved, collared shirt.

38 Aspirin

Trademarked in 1857 by Bayer Healthcare, LLC.

Actually, it is a Blood-thinning drug, acetylsalicylic acid.

39. Kerosene

Trademarked originally by Abraham Gesner

Actually, it is a Combustible hydrocarbon liquid, paraffin

40. Plexiglass

Trademarked in 1936 by Rohm and Hass

Actually, it is Moldable plastic, polymethyl methacrylate

41. Teleprompter

Trademarked by Teleprompter Corp in 1949

Actually, it is an Automatic prompting device

42 Mobil

43 Bisleri

Few more to the list

Skype, Milkmaid, Maggi, Instagram, Swiggy, WhatsApp, FedEx, Dettol, Nutella, Dalda, Good knight, Tabasco, Lays, Ujala, Sintex, Dunzo…

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