Sunday, November 22, 2009

Top 40 Generic Brands - in Alphabetical order

Advertising builds brand awareness and image. This in turn drives brand sales, loyalty, margins etc. But, what happens when advertising and marketing get “so successful” that consumers associate the brand name to the product so precisely that the TM name starts to lose its meaning? How common is this issue? I’ll start this topic off by chronicling my Top 40 “genericized” brand names with a few comments. Any surprises?

Astroturf __ Do you know who said this: "I owned an El Camino pickup in the '70s. It was a real sort of Southern deal. I had Astroturf in the back. You don't want to know why, but I did." By the way, is he sure it was Astroturf brand and not another competitor making artificial turf?" (Answer: Bill Clinton)

Band Aid __ "Mommy I got a booboo. I need a sterile strip."

Chapstick __ Wyeth brand of 'lip balm'.

Coke __ How would the cliche teen movie pick-up line sound if it became "Hamburger, fries, a cola and your phone number please."

Crock Pot __ The original slow-cooker.

Dumpster __ An American brand of trash receptacle that was founded by the Dempster brothers.

Fiberglass __ A brand of glass-based insulation. The company did an interesting job of differentiating its brand with its pink campaign in the 1980s.

Frisbee __ It`s a lot more fun for Skippy to catch a Frisbee than a `flying disk`.

Google __ "While most of the generic brands were the first to successfully commercial in their industry, what is so interesting about Google is that was about the 20th entrant into this space. If you don't believe me, Google it."

Hula-hoop __ Technically, it's just another brand of "toy hoops".

Jacuzzi __ "Generic product is ""water-jet bath."" The Italian sounding name gives it some geography of origin sex appeal."

Jeep __ Chrysler's brand that is the original SUV.

Jell-o __ Kraft's "geletin dessert" that is soon to be celebrating 100 years.

Jet Ski
__ Zooming around on a Jet Ski sounds a lot cooler than 'personal recreational watercraft.'

Jumbotron __ Sony's brand of stadium display screens. Sony JumboTrons ceased being sold in 2001, when the company decided to exit the business.

Kleenex __ "Could you please pass me the 'paper tissues' please?"

Lego __ Construction toy' brand based in Denmark.

Nylon __ From toothbrush tips to women's stockings, Dupont's brand keeps you looking your best. Maybe not when you consider 70s fashion.

Pingpong __ The Olympic event is "table tennis"- and this is dominated by the Chinese. I wonder if they practice on the Ping Pong brand

Play-doh __ How strong is this brand name in the consumer's mind? The brand recall from the smell alone is close to 100%.

Plexiglas __ There are lots of competing brands of transparent thermoplastic. Eg. Policril, Plexiglas, Gavrieli, Vitroflex, Limacryl, R-Cast, Per-Clax, Perspex, Plazcryl, Acrylex, Acrylite, Acrylplast, Altuglas, Polycast, Oroglass, and Optix. But, Plexiglas is the only one we've ever heard of.

Polaroid __ Shake it like a Polaroid picture.

__ Unilever TM of "iced pop". That's the real ice ice, baby.

__ There is nothing better than safety cotton swabs.

Rollerblade __ "It’s a beautiful day today. Let's go 'in-line skating.'"

SaranWrap __ Good old 'plastic wrap' keeps my food fresh.

Ski Doo __ Bombardier Recreational Products brand of snowmobiles.

Slinky __ Also had one of the coolest jingles of all times. It's Slinky, it's Slinky. For fun it's a wonderful toy. It's Slinky, its slinky. It's fun for a girl or a boy.

Spandex __ You have to love the stretch of the polyurethane-polyurea copolymer synthetic fiber.

Speedo __ It may be small and tight, but did Bob really get a ticket for wearing a bathing suit that was a Speedo brand?

Styrofoam __ Dow brand of extruded polystryene foam.

Swiss Army Knife__ MacGyver was that much cooler because he had a Swiss Army Knife and not just a multi-function pocket knife.

Taser __ Electro-shock weapon

__ The generic term for the trademarked Trampoline was a "rebound tumble" but only recently did the brand lose its TM designation.

Vaseline __ Unilever brand of "petroleum jelly".

Velcro __ Brand name of a fabric hoop and loop fastener. An ingredient brand is Nylon.

Xerox __ The classic example of a generic brand.

__ A Greek vase from 500BC shows a boy playing with a string-based retractable double disc toy. But in 1928 the toy was marketed as YoYo.

Zamboni __ The inventor's name "Frank Zamboni" suits the ""ice resurfacing machine" so perfectly.

ZIP code __ An expired trademark of the US Postal service. Who knew?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Where is the love?

So what are the most loved and hated brands? You have your opportunity to rate brands you love, hate and are ambivalent towards at BrandMojo. The site includes both traditional and non-traditional brands. Any guesses on the most loved / hated brands?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why Spiderman and I love brands.

There's no doubt that brands are tremendously valuable. In his book, the Brand Gap Marty Neumeier lays out a calculation on Coca-Cola to show that the Coke brand is worth around 60% of the company's overall market value. For the record, the Coke brand is evaluated at just under $70 billion (Interbrand). Whether you're looking at Hermes, McD's, or President's Choice, you arrive to this conclusion: brands are among the most valuable assets that a company has. This even applies to business to business companies. Check out Intel or IBM's balance sheet and its very clear that there is a disproportionate value coming from intangible assets and brand. What is particularly interesting is just how valuable these assets are in aggregate. According to the Economist on Brands and Branding (2009), if you add up the value of Interbrand's Top 100 brands, you have $1.2 Trillion in value - equivalent to the 11th largest GDP in the world squeezed between Brazil (#10) and India(#11). That's a lot of economic clout. However, I don't love brands because they are valuable or powerful. The reason that I love brands is the same reason Spiderman would: Brands mean accountability and responsibility. As Uncle Ben told Spidey: "With great power comes great responsibility" and brands inherently can't shirk either accountability or responsibility. Let's look at a couple of examples.

Brands force accountability
Strong brands are underscored by favorable brand image (Keller, 1993). In other words, reputation matters. Have a good reputation and customers come back. Screw your reputation and customers flee. Since a brand (and its underlying reputation) is one of most valuable assets that a company has and since the brand can live forever, companies have every incentive to manage it responsibly. If it is not managed that way, accountability will be forced upon the brand.

In 2008, twenty two customers died from listeriosis after eating Maple Leaf meat products. (Government of Canada). Maple Leaf management responded quickly and ethically. They performed a product recall, improved production processes, and introduced new safety standards. (In addition they have also been dealing with the victims' families). In this example, Maple Leaf seemed to take the "carrot" approach to repair the brand by taking accountability for their problem. But, even if managers did not want to go the responsible route, the brand would serve as a "forcing mechanism" to impose accountability as we shall see in the next example.

Remember the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989? The Wiki version of the story is that Exxon oil tanker was on autopilot when the ship accidentally struck a reef. The result- the oil tanker drained about 40 million litres of crude oil into the sea - one of the worst environmental catastrophes of all times. Exxon executives were very slow in response, resistant in taking responsibility, and inadequate in clean up response. It appeared that Exxon executives wanted to shirk the responsibility of the clean up. Here is an example where the brand forced accountability. The public image of Exxon suffered (and still does today) and through the will of the people who demanded Exxon take responsibility for its damaging actions, the government took the company to court. To date Exxon has spent approximately $2 billion cleaning up the spill (and $1 billion to settle related civil and criminal charges). While not perfect, accountability is enforced on a brand even when the company is reticent.

This takes us to aninteresting irony. There's a segment of folks who paint brands with an "unethical behavior" brush. Some of them say we that ought to get rid of brands because they dupe the consumer, disregard laws, pollute, and cheat. What is ironic about this is that if you really want to stop unethical behaviors in business (or anywhere), you need to have accountability for transgressions. This is precisely what brands do. Ultimately, the most valuable and powerful brands are the ones that have the greatest incentive to be responsible - and have accountability enforced upon them.