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Friday
Dec032010

On Becoming a Verb

On November 30, The New York Times web site ran a very interesting article by Nick Bilton called “For Start-Ups, the Ultimate Goal: Becoming a Verb”. The piece spoke of many new companies today aiming to have their company name become just that – a verb. For instance, rather than saying “Let me search that term on the Internet” how about “Let me Google that.”

Just think of the many verbs you use each day (and think of the companies they belong to!) My boss often says that he needs to “Photoshop” a picture. I have a friend in New York whose interior designer is on assignment in another country, so she often “Skypes” her…

The Times article goes on to mention that Fred Shapiro, editor of “The Yale Book of Quotations” stated that in the past, many companies whose names had become verbs worried that the name would become “generified” and therefore would lose its trademark status. Do you remember how a facial tissue suddenly became a Kleenex?  Or, rather than photocopying a document, you would Xerox it!  And, where would we be without an adhesive bandage – or, is it Band-aid?

Today, the school of thought believes that making a product name a verb can actually help the brand. This, I imagine, would be similar to saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity… Consumers using a company name or product name as a verb creates yet another impression that helps increase awareness for that company or brand. But – is there such a thing as too much usage? Can you “wear out” a name and does it hurt your brand?

I for one cannot wait for the day when business leaders in and around Richmond will say “Let’s AlderAds that new product!”  Is that too much to hope for?

(c) Alder & Associates