Brand Genericide – Google it

We all know what Google is – if you don’t, it’s fair to assume that you’ve been living under a rock for the last 20 years or so.

Google has built itself an empire since it’s inception in 1998, from its infant state with a plan to simply “organise the worlds information” to providing the number 1 global search engine for consumers,  providing one of the most competitive online advertising options available to businesses, and delivering an array of incredibly helpful, user-focused software options (think Android OS, Google Play, the Gmail suite for business and personal use). Of course we can’t forget Google’s amazing R&D division, the Moonshots which produces the likes of the driveless car, home automation through Nest and delivery drones.

Google originally took a Branded House approach, taking it’s umbrella Google brand, and applying it to all of the products, services and technologies developed. This resulted in a strong consumer base who are likely to have increased purchase and adoption of new products, as they have confidence in the brand (Iacobucci 2014). The brand as opposed to the particular product, communicates status, consistent quality, reduction of risk and therefore easier purchasing decisions. (Having said all that, in 2015, Alphabet became the new umbrella company, reorganizing the whole structure into a Branded House, so things may change! Take a look at the new structure below)



All of this has seen Google rank incredibly well on Millards Top 100 Global Brands list; Ranked #1 in 2014, with a measly brand value of $158,843 million. Surprisingly, Google dropped to second place in 2015 to Apple, with only a 9% increase in brand value that year to  $173,652 million – ouch! The question is, what will the brand value do in 2016 and beyond?

History has seen great products lost to a technical ruling on trademarks – it’s called ‘genericide‘. In short, a brand name gets used so often in conversation (aka in lower case), causing the brand name to lose worth as people no longer associate the word with a particular brand. Once the word is deemed genericized, it can no longer be renewed as a trademark. A shortlist of the unfortunate brands is listed below, but check out here, here and here for more examples and some of the backstory.

  • Asprin
  • Kerosene
  • Escalator
  • Cellophane
  • Trampoline


So YES, you heard me right – If you are too good at strengthening your brand, and people start using it too much in everyday conversation…you might lose your brand altogether to the dictionary. Hmmm.

“Ok Google”: define google

Definition of Google

Definition of google according to Oxford Dictionary


This definition implies they are safe…for now! Many an urban dictionary don’t limit the definition to Google’s search engines.

1googlethemcolcpDo you think this is a threat to Google? Have you ever said “I’m just going to google it” meaning “I’m just going to look that up” and not specifically mean Google?… well you might just be one of the millions of people to cause the downfall of Google as a brand. Perhaps don’t feel too guilty just yet – Google has been working actively to protect it’s brand, undeniably recognizing that brand is Google’s most valuable asset. In 2014, Google battled at court, coming out on top, proving that at this time, 90% of consumers see Google as a search engine.

Of course, while it lasts, the everyday use of the work google is a brand strengthener, increasing awareness and uptake of Google’s products. But who knows what will happen to this branded house when they suddenly can’t trademark the word Google anymore?

With any luck, they can use all of the creative expertise they employ to come up with a solution in the nick of time. Hopefully, it wasn’t the adoption of the new umbrella brand over Google; Alphabet…if so, they just jumped from on potentially genericized name to another!


Author: paijeterrell; Student ID: 900192578;

Reference List:

Digital Synopsis 2016, 50 Common Words You Use Everyday That Are Actually Trademarked Brand Names, retrieved 24 April 2016, <>.

Business Insider 2010, 15 Words You Had No Idea Used To Be Brand Names, retrieved 24 April 2016, <>.

Forbes 2014, Google Successfully Defends Its Most Valuable Asset In Court, retrieved 24 April 2016, <>.

Iacobucci, D 2014, ‘Chapter 7, Brands’ Marketing Management (MM), 4th Edition, Cenage Learning, Mason.

Intelectual Property Watch 2015, Was Google’s Unexpected Move To Create Alphabet About ‘Genericization’?, retrieved 24 April 2016, <>.

Millward Brown 2014, Branz Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2014, retrieved 10 April 2016, <>.

Millward Brown 2015, Branz Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2015, retrieved 10 April 2016, <>.

Oxford Dictionaries 2016, Google,  retrieved 24 April 2016,  <>.

Tech Insider, 2016, Alphabet’s 20 most ambitious moonshot projects, retrieved 24 April 2016, <>.

Wikipedia 2016, Google,  retrieved 24 April 2016, <>.

Wikipedia, 2016, List of generic and genericized trademarks, retrieved 24 April 2016, <>.

One thought on “Brand Genericide – Google it

  1. Pingback: The $94-million-dollar hairdryer | T1 2016 MPK732 Marketing Management (Cluster A)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s