20 Brand Names You Don't Realize Are Brand Names

Last Updated Sep 15, 2010 5:56 PM EDT

Powerful BrandsBranding is more than a hobby with me. As an engineer-turned-marketing executive in the early 90s, I found that high-tech America was pretty much in the dark about branding. So was I, at the time, but I made it my mission to understand branding strategy and how brands became viral, so it became sort of a niche.

Those who follow the blog know I have little patience for high-tech marketers with questionable marketing aptitude, not to mention CEOs who are remarkably clueless about all things marketing. Of course, there are notable exceptions. There's Steve Jobs at Apple, and, um -- hmm. That's weird; I can't think of any others. I'll have to get back to you on that.

Powerful BrandsAnyway, Business Insider has a post on brands that are so powerful you don't even realize they're brand names. While that intuitively sounds like a good thing for the brand owner, that's not necessarily the case.

On the plus side, your brand is top-of-mind when someone's in the market to buy that type of product. On the downside, once a trademarked term becomes generic through common use, the mark may be invalidated. Plus trademarks must be actively and lawfully used, enforced, periodically renewed, and all that good stuff. So managing and enforcing a popular trademark is a major and expensive proposition.

How does a brand name become so popular that it becomes part of our every day lexicon? At a minimum, by satisfying one or more of the following three conditions:

  • Invention or innovation
  • Viral use or marketing
  • Creating or dominating a category

There have also been some relatively recent changes to how we name companies and products. These days, I'm actually more concerned about the website address than infringing a company's trademark. If you can't get the URL, there's really no point in pursuing a name. Trademark infringement is far less black and white since it hinges on a number of factors, like whether a potentially infringing name is even in the same category as the trademarked name, for example.

In any case, here are 20 brand names that we use in common language, and their owners. And some are so prolific that you might even be hard-pressed to come up with the generic category. I mean, what else would you even call a Frisbee?

  1. Band-Aid - Johnson & Johnson
  2. ChapStick - Wyeth
  3. Dumpster - Dempster Brothers
  4. Frisbee - Wham-O
  5. Google - Google
  6. Hi-Liter - Avery Dennison
  7. iPod - Apple
  8. Jell-O - Kraft Foods
  9. Kitty Litter - Edward Lowe Industries
  10. Kleenex - Kimberly Clark
  11. Laundromat - Westinghouse Electric
  12. Ping Pong - Parker Brothers
  13. Post-It - 3M
  14. Q-Tip - Unilever
  15. Spandex - DuPont
  16. Thermos - Thermos LLC
  17. Velcro - Velcro Industries
  18. Viagra - Pfizer
  19. Wite-Out - BIC
  20. Xerox - Xerox

There must be hundreds of others; can you think of any? How about generic names for some of these popular brands? Ping Pong I get, that's table tennis. iPod is an MP3 player. But what else would you call a Band-Aid or a Dumpster?

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