In the world of marketing, brand is everything.
Companies can spend millions on advertising trying to familiarise consumers with their brand name, often to no avail. But whilst this is almost always a worthwhile investment, sometimes branding can work a little too well, to the point where the brand name becomes a generic term that is no longer associated with their actual brand. Yikes.
And although these brand names are often ‘genericized’ purely for convenience (Sellotape is slightly catchier than ‘transparent, cellulose-based, pressure-sensitive adhesive tape’), it can have a devastating effect on the health of the brand itself.
The sheer volume of terms that we use on a daily basis which derive from defunct brands is pretty surprising. From Aspirin and Granola to Escalator and Pogo Stick (yes I use a Pogo Stick on a daily basis), it almost seems as if having a powerful brand can be a dangerous thing in the long run.
And that was certainly the case for Frederick Walton, creator of lino (linoleum) flooring. Lino flooring is consideredto be the first brand name ever to become genericized, after it’s invention in 1855. As lino flooring became more popular around the United Kingdom, many other companies began using the term ‘Linoleum’ to describe the lino flooring that they were producing. Despite attempting to register ‘Linoleum’ as a trademark, the court declared that the Linoleum brand had become too widely used as a generic term, only 14 years after it was invented.
There’s a lesson in there somewhere. I’m sure that Walton would be quick to suggest that we trademark our ideas as soon as they pop into our heads.
Regardless of Walton’s failure to trademark his invention, lino flooring is still one of the best options for anyone looking for a versatile floor for their home. Just be sure to think of Walton whilst you’re enjoying your new floor.
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