when a brand goes beyond just becoming a verb…

overheard this afternoon on a bus in Brighton…

Mum’s coming over tomorrow with the Dyson and we’re going to Hoover the whole place…

I know mum owns a Dyson… but if you were Hoover’s brand managers a decade or so ago you’d have to be proud, wouldn’t you? Vaccuum cleaning is a thing of the past it seems.


  1. Nicolai August 27, 2006 at 10:40 pm

    See also: Kleenex, Xerox, Photoshop (not PhotoShop). Most companies actually work to avoid this, because when a product name becomes a generic term, it loses its brand identity. For example, you can see Adobe working hard to prevent it in their third-party trademark usage guidelines PDF.

  2. leisa.reichelt August 28, 2006 at 9:49 am

    yes… it’s the first time that I’d heard two brands used together in this context (Dyson and Hoover)… when you PhotoShop something you generally use photoshop to do it, don’t you? And does anyone actually *know* other tissue brands that we refer to as Kleenex? (And, I have to add, it’s been my observation that using the verb ‘to Xerox’ is more of an US thing… I haven’t really come across it in Australia or the UK so far… there is more of a tendency ‘to photocopy’ or ‘to copy’.

    I can see how becoming a generic term is probably more destructive than it is helpful… but still… I reckon it’s an achievement :)

  3. Mark September 2, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    See here for an article about Google trying to prevent ‘genericide’ of their brand name:


    It’s an interesting situation: at what point does having such a ubiquitous brand name actually become a *bad* thing?

  4. Derrick Daye November 14, 2006 at 4:43 pm


    When a brand name becomes the category descriptor it is a double edged sword. While it is flattering that the brand has such a presence in the market that it becomes the name for the category, this also makes its name much more difficult to protect legally. Also, the brand’s points of difference disappear as the category becomes synonymous with the brand. The way to address this is to always say “Kleenex branded facial tissue,” “Xerox branded copiers,” “Band-Aid branded adhesive bandages,” Many brands have become category generic descriptors, my partner Brad VanAuken does a nice job of addressing these in his book Brand Aid.

  5. kent looft February 29, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    Good point Derrick.
    Be careful what you wish for.
    While branding may be the ladder of choice to mass acceptance and visibility, transcending to verb usage is both the greatest acknowledgement and nightmare.
    The mentioned Hoover example [We use the Dyson to Hoover the carpets…] is a major smackdown.