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When A Brand Name Becomes Synonymous With A Product

You’d think that becoming a household name would be the chief goal of any company, but turns out there’s actually a huge downside.

You probably don’t even realize you’re doing it, but when you have a runny nose, you reach for a box of Kleenex, not just tissues.  Or how about when you pull up that Zipper, or go up an Escalator at the mall, or use a Phillips-head screwdriver, or put a Band-aid on a scratch, or even pop an Aspirin; All of these are company trademarks that have become so popular in our language that their name has become synonymous with the entire product line whether it was made by them or not.

Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

As a kid my parents got me my first building blocks set, but it wasn’t made by LEGO, it was made by a company called TYCO. Fast forward twenty-five or so years and my kids are playing with LEGO’s and the other company has faded into oblivion.

Or at the advent of the internet, I can remember being asked which search engine I used to look stuff up, and as a teen I just had AOL and I don’t even think I understood the question. I just typed in the white search bar and surfed away without a second thought. Now, we Google something when our minds get curious. I looked up how many search engines exist right now (yup, I Googled it) and was surprised that there are literally hundreds out there!

Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Some companies embrace this kind of popularity while others surprisingly take issue to it. But, why would a company who spends millions on advertising to get their name engrained in your head, want to seemingly reverse all that? Well, if I invented Kleenex for example, I wouldn’t want someone picking up some other guys tissue box and calling it that. Or if I had started the Xerox company, I don’t think I’d want to ‘Xerox’ a few copies on someone else’s copier. And I’m sure Adobe doesn’t want you photoshopping a picture with someone else’s photo editor. Not only that, but once a company’s name becomes generalized like that, copyright infringement law-suits cannot hold up in court thereby relegating that once unique trademark fair game for anyone to use.

Furthermore, there’s NOTHING like the ‘real’ thing and I don’t know about you, but I can easily tell the difference between Wal-mart’s generic Cinnamon Toast Crunch and the original and got into many arguments as a kid with my parents over it who were just trying to stretch out the grocery budget! And speaking of groceries, next time you want a pudding, it’s not necessarily JELL-O pudding (insert Bill Cosby accent here). But who really cares anyway? Just another of the random thoughts that go through my mind… Ever crossed yours?

Michael Buckner/Getty Images

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