There are brands out there that everyone knows and loves. Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Apple, Disney – these are the titans with merchandise sales, millions of dollars in revenue, and a legion of fans to show for it all.
While these companies are undoubtably great, it takes a truly special brand to be so well-known, you drop their name in conversation without even realizing it. There’s even a name for this phenomenon:
Genericide – (n.) the process by which a brand name loses its distinctive identity
as a result of being used to refer to any product or service of its kind.
Here are 32 examples of brands that fit into that category. You casually use these names as words or phrases without giving it a second thought!
The actual name for “Band-Aid” is actually “bandage.” Band-Aid became a trademark of Johnson & Johnson in 1920 and has dominated the wound care market ever since. In fact, 42.1 million units of Band-Aid sold in the U.S. in 2019 alone. With sales like this, it’s no wonder why people ask for a “Band-Aid” instead of a “bandage” when they get a scrape or cut.
Kleenex was originally marketed to Hollywood as a way to remove theatrical makeup. Now, the brand is a major part of cold and flu season with 60% of people using the Kleenex brand to blow their noses. The brand name is so powerful, even generic versions are referred to as “Kleenex” rather than “tissues.”
Google is part of our everyday lives, so much so that “googling” has become a verb. And people are “googling it” all over the place – with 5.6 billion searches every single day! This search engine is really the only name you think of when it comes to getting your questions answered. Sorry Bing.
Did you know that an 11-year-old invented Popsicles in 1905? He definitely gave that kid with a lemonade stand a run for his money! You’re likely going to refer to any frozen treat on a stick as a “Popsicle.” The dessert even has its own national holiday – Cherry Popsicle Day (America’s favorite flavor) is August 26th.
Dinner is served, and it’s all thanks to the wonderful Crock-Pot! This kitchen essential was invented in 1940 as a way for Jewish families to eat stew during the Sabbath. It’s since transcended those humble origins, and with about 65% of people owning a Crock-Pot, has come to be used to describe any type of slow cooker.
Charles Brown Fleet, a pharmacist in Virginia, came out with Chapstick in the late 1800’s, but nobody was really interested in his product. Americans now spend over $200 million on lip balm, and since many of those tubes have the Chapstick label, the name has come to replace “lip balm” in our vernacular.
#7: Ping Pong
It would just be plain weird if anyone referred to ping pong by its actual name – “table tennis.” “Ping Pong” has totally taken over, even though it’s actually a brand of table tennis tables and not the name of the game itself. Today, 300 million people play ping pong professionally (say that five times fast) around the world.
A Detroit housewife named Brownie Wise held the world’s first Tupperware party in 1948 – a tradition that still helps bring in over $2.61 billion in revenue every year. It didn’t take long for Tupperware to take over the market on plastic containers, which is why you’ll refer to anything that holds leftovers as “Tupperware.”
The history of Frisbees begins with pie tins that were thrown around by students at Yale. 300 million Frisbees have sold ever since, and now the word “Frisbee” is used to describe any flying disc, even though they’re technically not all part of the “Frisbee” brand.
#10: Bubble Wrap
Bubble Wrap is worth a staggering $255 million. That’s a whole lot of popping! The brand has come to be associated with any cushioning used for packaging and packing, even though there are other generic versions you could use instead.
You can’t pack a good lunch without the help of Ziploc bags. Even if you get the generic brand, you’re still going to refer to them as “Ziplocs.” The brand was started by a family in Wisconsin that’s worth an estimated $30 billion!
“Taser” is an acronym that stands for “Tom A. Swift Electric Rifle.” This brand name weapon, which could give you a shock as high as a 50,000-volts, has come to be used for any electric shock weapon or stun gun. It’s commonly wielded by police officers as a way to deescalate a seemingly violent offender.
#13: Hula Hoop
Toy hoops have been in use for centuries, but the Hula Hoop came to be known as “the” toy hoop when it was patented by Wham-O in 1964. With their popularity at music festivals and in fitness centers, the Hula Hoop has made a comeback with 20 million selling in just 6 months in 2018.
Thermos has come to define all vacuum insulation, which is why travel mugs are often referred to as “Thermoses.” Whether it’s a travel mug or Thermos, it’s a good thing there’s an easy way to bring our caffeine on the go! 400 billion cups of coffee are consumed every single year.
“Playbill” is the name of a magazine that was printed for a theater in New York City. This publication was so popular, it completely changed our vocabulary! Now the 47 million Americans who have seen a play in the last year receive a “playbill” rather than a “program.”
New words are created all the time from technology – selfie, hashtag, GIF, photobomb…the list goes on and on. One of the first was “Xerox,” which has come to replace “copy” in many offices. Just don’t tell Xerox about it! The company has filed trademarks, released campaigns, and hired paralegals all in an effort to prevent their brand name from becoming a generic term.
Nothing’s cuter than a baby in a onesie. Adults are even getting in on the trend, with 1 in 8 people in the U.K. alone owning a grown-up version! The word “onesie” is owned by Gerber and their trademark is strictly enforced. If your company creates one-piece garments, you can’t technically call them “onesies,” even though that’s what everyone else calls them.
Plexiglass has had a moment lately due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with a huge spike in Google searches in May 2020. Many stores, restaurants, hair salons, and other businesses are putting up these sneeze guards as a barrier between their employees and customers. Plexiglass is a type of acrylic shield, but the word “plexiglass” is used more often than “acrylic.”
Do you have a sweet tooth? Grab a spoon and dig into some delicious Jell-O, which is said to be good for your skin, improves your joints, and helps you with weight loss. You’ll often hear people refer to any gelatin dessert, even homemade versions, as Jell-O.
Post-its are a popular type of sticky note produced by 3M. The company was the first to produce this essential office supply and is now manufacturing about 50 billion every year. There are other knock-off versions on the market, but none sticks with us quite as much as the Post-it.
Are you going on vacation? Make sure to hit the hot tub as it could loosen your tight muscles and help relieve stress. Just be careful not to call it a Jacuzzi, which is actually the name of a brand of hot tubs. They also make toilets, but you probably don’t want to lounge around in those.
#22: Lava Lamp
Lava lamps were a groovy part of dorms and bedrooms in the 60s and 70s. At their height, 7 million of these lamps were sold around the world each year. Sales have since oozed toward the bottom, but that hasn’t stopped the Lava Lamp from making a lasting impression and changing our language.
You can’t get through a day of work or labelling gifts for the holiday season without Sharpies by your side. It’s just easier to say, “hand me a sharpie” rather than “hand me a permanent marker.” This brand offers many different types, like mini, fine point, and jumbo, as well as 49 unique colors.
The Dempster Brothers started their waste collection company in 1936, combining their last name with the word “dump.” They totally changed our language as a result. The American Psychological Association (APA) even recommended that we stop capitalizing the word so it could officially become a generic term.
#25: Saran Wrap
Saran Wrap is a fan favorite as it can be used in the microwave for reheating food or put in the freezer without tearing. It’s high quality design like this that has made “Saran Wrap” the phrase you use when referring to plastic cling wrap of any kind.
In 1980, two hockey playing brothers invented “Rollerblades” – pairs of inline skates that have since totally transcended the brand name. This could be because it was the only type of inline skate until the late 80s. Even though rollerblades are now considered a generic term, the brand has 200 patents and 116 registered trademarks to their name.
BIC is a big name in the world of supplies, with pens, highlighters, pencils, and more. They’re also home to the #1 correction fluid on the market – Wite-Out. The brand’s name is commonly used as a generic phrase in offices and schools across the country.
Frank Zamboni invented the first ice-surfacing machine for a popular skating rink in 1949. The look of this machine hasn’t changed since, which is often why people refer to any ice resurfacer as a “Zamboni.” The first team in the NHL to use a Zamboni was the Boston Bruins in 1954.
The history of koozies starts in the 1980s with a company called Radio Cap Corporation (RCC). Since then, the name “koozie” has totally transcended its origins to become a genericized term that’s frequently heard at tailgates and backyard barbeques. You can’t hold a beer or soda without one!
The “Q” in “Q-Tip” stands for “quality,” and it’s this quality that has come to turn the brand name into a generic word. Medical professionals recommend that you clean your ears with Q-tips only 1 to 2 times per week. However, you can still use these ear swabs for other purposes such as removing makeup, arts and crafts projects, and cleaning the house.
Toddlers and lazy people alike love using Velcro on their shoes. Why? These sticky fabric strips are a lot easier to use than traditional ties. George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, is credited for inventing this brand in the 1940’s. Since then it has become the top fastener in the world, with over 35,000 products to its name and a place in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a generic word.
Few people realize that Aspirin with a capital “A” is actually a specific brand of medication, first released by Bayer’s in 1915. Over the years, Bayer’s has lost their rights to the trademark, which is why many pain relievers are simply referred to as “aspirin.” Alarmingly, an estimated 10 million people take some form of pain reliever every single day.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many employees to work from home. As a result, a teleconferencing software known as Zoom became more popular than ever before. In fact, Zoom as added 12.92 million users, which is 21% more than in 2019. Experts believe that all of this exposure will put Zoom on the road to genericide.
You don’t say you’re going to edit the pictures. You say you’re going to Photoshop the pictures! This design software is an example of a company name that became a verb, and it didn’t take long for that to happen. Adobe came out with Photoshop in 1988 after it was sold by two brothers named Thomas and John Knoll. Today, it has more than 10 million users, which explains why it’s now a verb in our language.
Why is a Brand Name Important?
A brand name holds a lot of power and can make all the difference when it comes to sales. It’s important to take the time to consider what you’re naming your products since, according to the European Journal of Marketing, customers create their own associations with a brand name.
This could explain why so many brand names turn into generic words and phrases. In fact, 77% of people refer to certain items as brand names without even realizing it.
So if you are introducing a new product to the market take note! A good name can really put your company on the map… or at the very least in the dictionary!
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