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  • Writer's pictureIan Morris

When your brand name becomes a verb

In the dynamic landscape of consumer culture, some brands achieve a level of recognition that transcends mere product or service association. These are the brands that not only dominate market share but also etch their names into the fabric of our daily language.

Image with a chat bubble saying "Idk, Google it!"

How does a brand transform from a mere label to a verb that effortlessly rolls off our tongues?

Picture this. Someone has asked you a question you don’t know the answer to. Fill in the blank… ‘I’ll _____ it’.

Google, right?! This is our go-to phrase whenever we want to look something up online. But Google is a brand name. It’s a noun. Yet, we use it ALL the time as a verb.

This is a fascinating trend in the world of branding… when a brand name starts being used as a verb. Why? Because it signifies a level of cultural infiltration and recognition that your brand has not only captured a market, but also woven itself into everyday life.

This linguistic accolade even has a fancy name – ‘anthemeria’ – when a word is used in a different grammatical form, usually a noun being used as a verb.

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Let’s explore some examples…

Tech brand names that have become verbs

Google’ is the big one here, but the digital age has brought about a plethora of brand names that have turned into verbs. The rise of video conferencing gave us platforms like  ‘Zoom’… ‘shall we Zoom?’ takes us all back to those crazy lockdown days (although, actually, not us… as we like Google Chats, but that’s another convo!). 

Photoshop’ is another common one used by photographers and graphic designers everywhere… ‘I’ll Photoshop it’ is so much easier to say than ‘I’ll digitally enhance it’.

Sticky verbs

Imagine this scenario: a broken vase, a few moments of panic, and then the triumphant proclamation, ‘I’ll Super Glue it!’. Or, more recently, ‘I’ll Gorilla Glue it!’. Both these brand names have found their way into everyday language, denoting a powerful adhesive capable of fixing almost anything.

Sellotape’ is another one… phrases like ‘I need to Sellotape this together’ roll so easily off the tongue that you’ve possibly never thought of it as being a brand name.  And what about that hook and loop fastening stuff you can use instead of sewing something… have you ever said, ‘I’ll use the hook and loop fastening stuff’? No, you just say, ‘I’ll Velcro it’.

Other brands we ‘verbify’

Did we just make a verb out of the word ‘verb’? Yes, we did!

There are lots of other brands that we ‘verbify’. You ‘Hoover’ your carpet, ‘FedEx’ a parcel, ‘Uber’ to the train station, ‘UberEats a burger, ‘Taser’ a bank robber and ‘Hulahoop’ in a flowery meadow. These are all brand names. But they are so entrenched in our culture and society that we use them as everyday verbs.

The marketeer’s ‘yay’ versus the legal ‘nay’!

Something to mention is that not everyone sees a brand name being ‘verbified’ as a good thing. It has legal implications in terms of trademarks. And some businesses actively discourage their brand name from being used as verbs because it inadvertently becomes the brand name of any similar product. Velcro did a whole campaign to get people to stop using their name.

But from a marketeer’s point of view, and indeed from ours as a brand agency, your brand name being used as a verb is a definite ‘YES’ moment. It embodies success, indicating that a brand is not just a product or service provider but a cultural influencer.

So, next time you find yourself reaching for the Sellotape or Googling a question, take a moment to appreciate the success these brands have achieved.

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