Discussing the pinnacle of brands.

When brands become the standard.

Some brand names become generic, or they become something much bigger than where they started.

Are brands like Kleenex or Google at the top of the “branding process”? Is this the ultimate brand goal? Is it positive that people “Google” things, or “Windex” their windows (even if they’re using Bing or NoName)? Or are there negative aspects as well?

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Recorded on February 12th, 2021

Transcript

Brad Breininger: 0:00

Hi everybody, and welcome to this week’s Everything is Brand. This week we want to talk about when brands become the standard accepted in an industry or when their names become generic or iconic, or they become something bigger than they started out as. So that’s this week’s topic. Let’s go. All right, so there’s a lot of brands out there like Kleenex or Google that people almost have turned the words into in Google’s case a verb, when we search now we call it googling. What do you guys think of when brands become this? Is it an advantage to the brand? Is it a disadvantage? What do you think?

Marko Zonta:

I think it’s really interesting when it comes to large brands like that, they actually become so commonplace, so much a part of everyone’s daily life, that they really just start to refer to that brand name, or whatever the brand is, as how they actually do something, or how they actually experience something. And I would say that overall, it’s it’s a positive thing for brands that actually achieved that. But it’s also something that they have to manage, because it can actually start to water down their marketing opportunities and what they’re actually trying to do with the brand, but can potentially be a bit of a danger zone for them as well.

Gabi Gomes:

I’m guilty of referring to tissues is Kleenex all the time. But I’m looking at my tissue box in front of my desk, and they actually don’t have Kleenex, I have Royale. So, I don’t know about that. I would have agreed with you Marko that it probably is a good thing. However, I don’t know that it does after so long influence, buying decisions, etc. At the end of the day, I think when I go shopping, my biggest thing is three ply tissue. It ain’t Kleenex or Royale or Cottonelle. It’s whatever you’re looking for. And I mean, maybe it’s because it’s a commodity piece. But I don’t know, I don’t know that it makes a difference.

Jeremy Linskill:

I don’t I don’t understand that. To me, it’s the ultimate goal. Like if I can get somebody to use my name for an object or a service, like, I don’t know, I feel like I have one. Frankly, whether you’re buying my product or not the fact that you’re saying my name without any effort or marketing that I need to do… how is that not a win? The fact that we say Google instead of search? You say Kleenex. You’re it’s still Top of Mind without any marketing effort whatsoever you are, you win? I don’t know, you win.

Marko Zonta:

No, absolutely. And I think you’re absolutely right, that it’s a win for them what I meant, it can potentially be a little bit dangerous if a company has other aspirations or other areas where they want to grow or evolve into or anything like that. So we could potentially hold them back a little bit. And maybe Google is not the best example, though, when you want to think of Google is so much more than search, right? When you refer to it as Google from that standpoint, it could potentially hold them back. Now, they actually do a great job at being everywhere in everyone’s life in general, that I think that they kind of manage that in some ways. But yeah, you’re absolutely right. It’s a major achievement for any branch to become a part of everyone’s life.

Brad Breininger:

Yeah, I think there’s different levels to for example. It’s interesting, because I have some nephews and their parents bought them cheap tablets. So some of those, you know, $69 tablets instead of the very expensive ones. But they are little kids and they still call it their iPad, like that’s the terminology that they use, I have to go get my iPad, or I want to play games on my iPad. These are not iPads. These are pretty far from the quality and the level of iPad, but because of the inundation of iPad as the premier tablet. That’s the terminology that they use. And these are little kids. So they’re not necessarily exposed to the level of advertising or marketing that perhaps older folks are. But I think that to Jeremy’s point throughout their lives, if they’ve called a tablet, an iPad, that means that the messaging of a particular company has ingrained into their brain. And if the organization takes advantage of that, then that can be a good thing. I think part of the problem that Kleenex has is that they try to fight it. Like if you look at their advertising, they say Kleenex brand tissues, they should just absorb it and do something that allows them to take full advantage either buy more shelf space or do something because to your point, Jeremy and I think Google does a great job of that. They don’t try and stop it. They’re more than happy for people to say oh, I googled that. And I think it’s all about how an organization embraces it, but to your point, having that level of impact in the marketplace is an amazing thing.

Gabi Gomes:

I’ll say this one, I’ll share a couple of other ones. I grew up Saturday mornings, having to “windex” the windows, “windex” the windows, it became part of the language. And we’re talking about immigrant parents, whatever. But it was to look back on it. I didn’t think any different. And now looking at it from a brand perspective, I’m like, Yeah, why? No, it should be cleaning the windows not “windexing” the windows.

Jeremy Linskill:

How many people watch television anymore. We all watch Netflix or Hulu or HBO, we don’t even talk about we grew up, I’m gonna go watch TV. People don’t say that my kids go, I’m going to go watch Netflix. So they’ve even abolish the word television as a system, right? Like, it’s pretty fascinating. And then further that, like, I don’t know, if Google has done an amazing job across the board, though. I mean, yes, they own the search, where I struggle with them is this whole in the home thing where I had my Google Home, and now it’s my Nest home or my Nest hub, and they keep jumping around like and try it. Maybe they’re trying to do the same thing from that perspective there. But I do still think that they struggle with those things, kind of jumping around based on their what the companies they acquire and things like that.

Marko Zonta:

Using Google again, it’s actually to Jeremy’s point, then on the business side, like they have a slew of business products. And even they’re, they’re constantly renaming and readjusting things. And I mean, I don’t know for sure, but partially, it’s probably because new acquisitions or new developments, or quite frankly, just they’re trying to change the direction of company, and how they’re actually positioning those products in the marketplace. You know, going back to that iPad example, you never really hear or I don’t usually hear people referring to, to tablets as tablets. Like, it’s to Brett’s point. Yeah, there, you know, it’s an iPad. Yeah. But will that stick around? And is that something that Apple actually have to fight against if they have other plans for that product? And how they actually want to move into new markets. So so it’s going to be interesting to see what happens over the next 5, 10 years with products like that.

Unknown:

I’m going to be the devil’s advocate here. But don’t you think? And I hear you all but don’t you think that this is also a risk for the company is also a risk because they could even lose their trademark? Because of this generic version of their name? It happened to Aspirin, for example, they lost their trademark. What about Velcro? You never use other brands, you just say Velcro?

Gabi Gomes:

So that’s the material? Yeah,

Brad Breininger:

Yeah. I mean, that’s true Christian. I mean, the people who owned those are laughing all the way to the bank, I’m sure. But however, it’s a really good point from a long term success of an organization. I think that there’s definite risk. I mean, the other big risk that comes up with this is that and this speaks more to smaller or medium sized businesses, because the chances of them having their name become the standard are pretty low. But where their advantages is that, let’s say go to the tissue aisle, in the grocery store, it’s very easy. And you see this with some other brands, it’s very easy to come up with a lower cost version and put your tissue right beside the Kleenex brand tissue at half or less of the price. And a lot of consumers will choose based on pricing. So you can kind of come in and undercut so you’re, you’re up against the standard brand. But by undercutting their price or doing something a little more cheaply, you’re able to take full advantage of their position in the market and undercut them in price. And that’s a bit of the risk as well. Sometimes when you’re the leader in an organization, the expectations for you are much, much higher, that could be a risk as well.

Gabi Gomes:

I’d be interested in knowing what Apple did with the whole iPad? Did they ever refer to it as a tablet? I don’t think they did.

Jeremy Linskill:

I want to sort of jump in there. Because I think that you know this, we keep going back to the iPad. And it’s interesting. And I was just thinking about this too. Like they actually are having some internal struggles with it, not necessarily with the iPad. But iTunes is no longer iTunes, it’s Apple Music. So they are trying to drop the I from everything right now. And trying to move back to getting Apple to be sort of that key word that they use. And maybe it will change to the Apple tablet, I don’t know or something down the road. They tried to bring the ownership back to the word apple. So they are having some internal conflicts.

Gabi Gomes:

It’s it’s funny because I’ve referred to the watch as the I watch and migrate constantly. It’s not an I watch it. Yeah, I watch Apple Watch. And I’m like, Oh, yeah, that’s right. Oh, sorry. But yeah, no, it’s it’s ingrained in you for sure.

Jeremy Linskill:

Yeah. And they’re fighting right now.

Marko Zonta:

Going back to Christian to your point about trademarking. That actually is a really good point. And it really doesn’t matter if it’s a large business, midsize business or small business. When it comes to your brand, whether it’s your name, especially it trademarking things, and even your tagline, and things like that, where you are actually investing a lot of money into those assets, it’s important to actually have those things protected. And I mean, obviously, it’s a lot easier for large companies to to do that, for example, like the Coca Cola classic bottle, right, that’s something that the company trademarked and nobody else can create a bottle like that, because they realize that it’s iconic, it’s something that is very much part of their brand. So they they protected that. So it’s really interesting to, to kind of see that some companies can potentially lose that. And it’s, I’m sure it’s challenged in courts and all of that, if people start to use even trademark things as kind of like as a daily verb, or whatever it may be. But protecting your brand assets is really important.

Gabi Gomes:

I’m looking at my Starbucks cup here. And Starbucks is another one, you don’t say you’re going to grab a coffee, you’re going to you’re just going to Starbucks grabbing Starbucks, but I think the other one that for them was key, they changed the vernacular on small, medium and large. You know, it took a while, but it’s not small, medium or large at Starbucks.

Jeremy Linskill:

Yeah, it’s stupid is what it is. It’s so pretentious, you know, it’s like, you know, part of part of, you know, when you say these words, it is a status symbol as well, right? You know, when people are referring to their iPad, it’s like, I have an iPad, or I went to Starbucks or whatever. I think there’s a bit of that.

Vincent Champenois:

I think it’s really about differentiation, I think you’d become a standard when your product is so innovative, so different, so popular, that you become a standard, then, and it’s all about differentiation, you’re so different from other products. Apple did not invent the tablet. But it was so innovative. It’s so different that it became a standard. The reason why iPhone and the Apple products want to walk away from the AI thing is because now there’s nothing distinctive about having an a computer that is connected to the internet, or having a phone that is connected to the internet, or having a watch that is connected to the internet. This is not a differentiation factor anymore. So why still use it?

Brad Breininger:

I mean, that’s that’s truly insane. And coupled with the fact that I became bigger than the apple brand, that that was a huge risk for them, that their name and what they put out into the world as their brand was not taking the forefront and that I was taking over.

Vincent Champenois:

I agree. But also who knows, like ask your 16 years old, what the AI in iPhone stands for? Is it going to know that it stands for internet?

Brad Breininger:

To be honest, I didn’t even know that. I mean, I think that’s a designer thing. I mean, put up your hand if you knew that. I don’t think any of us do that.

Vincent Champenois:

It’s been around for so long that you don’t even know why it’s different. In the head of a 16 years old, his phone is connected to the internet. That’s it period. To why I think it’s implied. Right. So I think it’s all about differentiation. And if Kleenex is struggling, it’s because it has no differentiation points anymore. How do you differentiate the Kleenex from the brand next day? You don’t? same price, same design, same shelf space, same everything, it has no distinction? Why is Amazon becoming a standard because it hasn’t a competitive because it’s instinct from every single other similar service boys the same thing. So different.

Brad Breininger:

These days, we say we’re going to Uber to the party, or I’m going to Uber to the store. I’m going to Uber, Yeah, people are using that terminology.

Vincent Champenois:

Even if she even if she can actually tab. Well, even if you take one of the competitors from Uber. I think the brand becomes just another word in the vernacular when it loses its distinctiveness. And I think that’s really about it. I’m not sure it’s about trademarks, I’m not sure it’s about trying to get into different industries. I think this is just the basis.

Marko Zonta:

Yeah, but it’s also about popularity and first to market as well. When it comes to some of those products. They are innovative, they stand out in some way that definitely makes a difference. This conversation actually reminded me of that great Canadian company that’s unfortunately not so great anymore. Blackberry had a huge product that was recognized worldwide. But the company wasn’t called that and if you guys remember that I think that they were called Research in Motion (RIM) if I’m not mistaken was the actual company name, and they rebranded to take on the product name because that’s what they were known for like that everybody knew them as Blackberry so they dropped the original company name and took over the the product names that everybody knew. So it’s interesting how sometimes the products, we’re talking about Apple and I products, obviously, I’m always fighting that now, like they are trying to bring it back to the optimal Apple brand, rather than a product line.

Brad Breininger:

Yeah, I mean, the real advantage based on those elements, the real advantage, and what hurt Blackberry quite a bit is that everyone else kind of came in and took over the space that they were in. And it’s interesting, because I think it’s true that innovation is a big part of that and being first to market. But the real advantage for other organizations that would never necessarily have the opportunity to have their name become the standard is that they can go in and they can slightly adjust the technology or they can price differently, or they can innovate even more or come at it in a bit of a different way. And they can take full advantage of those organizations that have kind of been the pioneers in some of these areas. If you look back at some of those older brands that you talked about Christian that have lost their trademarks, aspirin or Velcro, you know, there are so many companies now in the world that make Velcro products that use Velcro, and they pay small licensing fee to do that, but they’re selling their products and Velcro is helping them do it. With aspirin, probably every major manufacturer makes some pain reliever of some sort that is all based off the original aspirin. So the opportunity for innovation, the opportunity to look at what’s going on with these standard brands and see, opportunity to innovate or change is a real opportunity for some of those smaller and medium businesses that can then become larger as well.

Marko Zonta:

We keep talking about huge brands, global, very recognized brands. But this actually applies to small businesses, small brands and mid sized brands as well, trying to find uniqueness, trying to find something that really makes you stand out. And so you may not be your brand may not be known to the general public. But if you are, let’s say a b2b type of business, perhaps your competitors will start to refer to terminology that you introduced, because it either makes sense. It’s either innovative, it’s strong in some way. Your clients will start to use it, and quite frankly, your competitors. So there is a lot of potential for any size of business to actually introduce something new and innovative and strong into that into the market and get recognized for that.

Brad Breininger:

Yeah, and two great examples of that are two organizations that we’ve talked about already. And that’s Amazon and Netflix, both of those organizations did not start out as the behemoths that they are today. They both started from a garage or a small business that took a look at what was going on in the marketplace and innovated and I think it’s a combination of things that we’ve talked about through a whole bunch of older podcasts. It’s this idea of seeing a problem in the marketplace going in innovating and then pivoting as you go along. And both of those have become behemoths in their industries. I mean, Amazon is the premier way that people order and ship products to themselves. And Netflix, like you said, Jeremy, we go home to watch Netflix instead of TV now. And you know, when you think about the early days, Amazon looked for a new way to sell books online. That’s the origins of Amazon and the origins of Netflix was getting CDs in the mail, to watch the or DVDs in the mail in order to watch movies that’s very different than where they are today. But they’re amazing examples of innovation in pivoting. And some would say that those weren’t even major problems, getting books online wasn’t necessarily a major problem. And watching DVDs wasn’t necessarily a major problem. So it doesn’t have to be world changing. It can be just making people’s lives easier. And then now they’re standard brands in their industries. And that is that kind of timeline. And that kind of example, really shows that even though we’re talking about these big organizations, there is an opportunity for anyone to get to this point.

Jeremy Linskill:

And it doesn’t seem like there’s any loyalty. If something comes along, people will jump over. Nobody orders a taxi anymore. Everybody orders an Uber because it’s just easier, right? I can say I’m willing to go wherever I need to go based on what’s easier for me. So I think that’s a big part of it.

Marko Zonta:

The word easy is actually a huge part of that. We’re all looking for convenience. We’re looking for something that just becomes part of our life and having an app on your phone, made it a lot easier to call a cab than to stand on the side of the road and wait for the cab to drive by and flag it down. Right. So it was innovation. It was something that was new, it was easy. And that became the standard or it’s definitely becoming a standard.

Jeremy Linskill:

Yeah, I mean I think and to me, this is a completely different topic. But when Brad was talking about Amazon and Netflix, that’s immediately what I saw that was, in both of those examples. It’s about bringing the service to the customer, as opposed to the customer having to go into the service. Like I didn’t have to go to a bookstore. I’m not going to a Blockbuster anymore. Now, those services are both like, how can I get that product to the person? And that’s what made the big right so and then Uber is the same thing I now use an app. So anyway, that’s, that can be a completely different topic.

Brad Breininger:

Let me ask you guys this too. Do you think that the general population of the general public actually likes having this new way of describing what they’re doing to kind of differentiate them from either the way things used to be like, for example, do you think people like to say, I’m going to Uber to the party? Do you think that they like to say, we’re going to Google that it doesn’t become almost like a status symbol to use that kind of terminology.

Jeremy Linskill:

Sorry, I’m gonna jump in here, because we had, we had our we had family dinner last night, and we’re sitting around the table. And somehow we got on to the conversation about terminology that we use, or that my wife and I used when we were younger, versus what our kids are using now. And it’s exactly what I think of it’s not about the right terminology, which I mean, and this is a subject that frustrates me because I’m all about efficiency, but it’s almost about having something different than the other people had before you. And I think that that lends itself to exactly what you’re talking about. Right. It’s kind of cool to be able to say, you know, “venti”, “large”, “grande”, “whatever-ay”

Brad Breininger:

I don’t think “large” is one of them.

Jeremy Linskill:

Yeah, well, I honestly, I don’t know what they are. Because I don’t go there because I can order a small, medium and large out. But that’s exactly it. You know, it’s the people that will go in and show up with their Starbucks, like, Oh, I just ordered my “venti-large-whatever”. And you’re like, Ooh, that’s cool. kind of thing. Right?

Brad Breininger:

Just so you know, I’m calling it “large” from now on.

Jeremy Linskill:

Save that for the Jeremy coffee company that’s coming up.

Brad Breininger:

Yeah, that’s right.

Jeremy Linskill:

I’m taking over Starbucks. It’s going to be “look at my Jeremy, I just went to”, you know.

Gabi Gomes:

I think it is. It’s the haves and the have nots. It’s, it’s name dropping, it’s all of that, right. It’s innovation forward thinking whatever it is, right?

Brad Breininger:

It’s also owning something for your peer group, right? Like, it’s, it’s, and it’s funny, because another example of that is Tiktok, like, you see a lot of people who are on Tiktok, and oh, I’m going to Tiktok this, or I’m going to Instagram that. And, you know, you see older generation, they’re like, how do I get on the Tiktok, like, you know, it just becomes this differentiation, or this separation between generations? Often

Jeremy Linskill:

I try and get my kids to use a word, they’re like, I’m not using that word. That’s not like, they’re just not using because I used it for no other reason than the fact that I use that word. So it’s like, okay, right.

Brad Breininger:

Well, it’s interesting, because throughout history, going way back to you brought up Christian aspirin and Velcro losing their trademarks, and becoming standardized. And then we kind of went through a middle period with Kleenex and a whole bunch of others. And then we’ve moved into the digital age, and things like Netflix, and Google and even tick, tock and Instagram have all become ways to describe a certain product in the marketplace. And there’s huge advantages to the organization’s this happens to as you mentioned, Jared like it’s, it really is unpaid media for them, it really is, it really makes their brands part of the vernacular. But the opportunity, the risk to that is that others can kind of come up and continue on with their innovation. And that’s the opportunity for some of the smaller and medium sized businesses to, to really come in and see what they can do. So like anything else, there’s good and bad to becoming a standardized brand. But more and more. And I think that a lot of standardized brands, there was less of them in the past, but there seems to be more and more of them as we go along. But maybe that’s just a representation of the level of innovation that’s happening now. And that differentiation in certain product areas or certain services. And it really is an opportunity. So even the smallest little organization like Amazon, not that long ago can become a global behemoth by making what they do and turning their innovation into a standard way of doing things. So that’s this week’s everything is brand. I thought that was a good discussion, a little bit of debate and back and forth there. So join us next week for more discussion and remember, everything is brand.

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