At times the impact of brand can be so powerful that it takes on a whole new life of it’s own. Earlier this week a certain so and so at the ARK offices complained “I washed my jacket and it now smells of Omo ya Ariel.”  

Wait… what? Omo ya Ariel?! 

Sellotape, Elianto, Blue Band, M-pesa ya Airtel, Thermos, Orbit, Big G, Cutex, Hedex, Panadol, Nissan… and many more brand names have now become generic terms to describe a product category in Kenyan colloquial terms. 

Globally, we have brand names that have turned into verbs, like Google it. Surely this is fantastic news for these brands, the ultimate compliment to show your dominance amongst competitors in the market place. Well… not really. Allegedly there’s a downside to a brand becoming bigger than its context. The risk of genericide.

Genericide, a portmanteau of generic and suicide. 

If it gets to a point where consumers understand the name of your brand to be the name of a product category rather than an identifier of its exclusive source, your brand looses its distinctiveness. Other brands could seize the opportunity to latch onto the popularity of the name to promote their own brands.

First thing you’d do is call an IP lawyer, but the apotheosis of irony could strike. Should competitors convince intellectual property judges that it’s an everyday term, your trademark could slip into the public domain, you could legally lose your brand trademark and your brand - a victim of genericide.

In the Omo ya Ariel example, Omo stands at a loss. 1) the Omo brand name has become meaningless, synonymous and indistinguishable from other detergents  2) as a brand you wouldn’t want to be mentioned in the same breath as your competitors by consumers. It’s a space you want to dominate and retain.  

Destroyed by their own success. There have been many victims, just google it :)