When launching a new brand, it is a marketer’s dream to have that brand name on every consumer’s lips, no matter the consequences. However, sometimes this is ultimately to the detriment of the brand. Just ask the owners of the XEROX or BAND-AID brands, which both fell victim to their own success, and as a result, began being used as a generic product descriptor rather than a trade mark or badge of origin for the goods of the brand owners only in the marketplace.
Both of these brand owners can tell you the costs associated with arresting a slide into “genericide” can be significant, involving extensive corrective advertising and consumer re-education. However, the costs of doing nothing can be even greater, resulting in the brand losing all recognition as a trade mark and becoming merely descriptive or generic.
Many people don’t realise that names Australian consumers frequently misuse as generic product descriptors, such as BUBBLEWRAP (for packaging materials), THERMOS (for bottles, flasks and other vessels), GRANOLA (for preparations made from cereals) and ESKY (for Cooling apparatus and equipment inclusive of portable ice boxes), just to name a few, are registered trade marks and the property of specific companies.
The companies who own these trade marks developed a novel product; gave that product an original and distinctive trade mark; and invested significant time and money to market their product under the trade mark. Some would argue these brands consequently became the victims of their own success, becoming so ubiquitous that they began to be used as generic product category descriptors.
‘So what?’, you might say, if you believe any exposure is good exposure. This article considers two key issues for brand owners that arise from genericide, being the limits on the owners’ ability to prevent third party usage and the ultimate potential for their trade marks rights to disappear. It also looks at some strategies to prevent a slide into genericide.