Branding Scar

While it's currently fashionable to knock Google, I can't help agreeing with both The Register and GMSV in supporting them over the defence of their brand. Anyone with even the most passing understanding to trademark law will be familiar with both the problem of a brand becoming generic and how you prevent it.

It happens when, through the neglect of the brand owner, a term gets used colloquially as a part of speech rather than in specific relation to the product or company it refers to. Famous losers in the US are kleenex (as in "I blew my nose in a Safeway's kleenex") and xerox ("go make a xerox on that computer will you"), and famous winners are Coke (which is why asking for a coke in a restaurant that sells only Pepsi gets you corrected every time in the US).

Every marketing professional with half a brain knows that a brand owner has no choice but to send a letter asking anyone they notice mis-using their brand to stop doing it. They may not want to, and it may not be a 'cool' thing to do, but there's no choice - defend it or see your failure to do so in any particular case being used to prove you don't care about your brand. In this case, Google has been as cute about it as possible, using humour so subtle some people aren't spotting it. They are also being consistent, having sent polite and not especially threatening letters to pretty much everyone since at least 2003.

So if this is obvious, common practice, required by law, and consistently carried out in a reasonable way since 2003, why are obviously experienced marketeers like Steve Rubel and the Boing Boing gang attacking Google over it? Seems to me it's more to do with their agenda than Google's behaviour.

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Thoughts and pointers on digital freedoms and technology markets. With a few photos too.

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