Let’s play a quick game of word association. If someone is about to sneeze, what do you hand them? If you cut your finger, what do you put on it. Did you say Kleenex or facial tissue? Band-Aid or adhesive bandage? These are just a couple of examples where a brand name has become so recognizable and widely used that it actually becomes a generic name for a product type.
Although this generification of brand names is not the norm, when it does happen, it can actually have an adverse impact on the company. Take for example the Band-Aid example above. If a company other than Band-Aid accidentally sold a batch of adhesive bandages that were not sterile, the story would most likely spread quickly that you should not buy Band-Aids because they are not sterile. Now, this has gone from bad press for a competitor, to bad press for Band-Aid.
Now, with a reported 50 million units sold to date, a seemingly insurmountable lead in the portable music device market, and the Oxford English Dictionary declaring “podcast” the word of the year, it appears that Apple’s iPod may well be on its way to becoming the next brand name diving into this potentially dangerous pool. And judging by feverous attempts to trademark everything “pod” related, Apple has already recognized both the potential benefits and drawbacks this brand recognition could create.
So, the question for Apple now becomes, “How do we maintain market share without risking reputation sabotage?”