Trademarks have typically been nouns, not verbs. Traditionally, companies have put their brands in favor of their products/services and their recognition. It is not surprising then that trademarks were objectified in the first instance. Some of them, over time, became generic to define a category: Cello, Kleenex, Tupperware, Velcro, Band-Aids, Rimmel, Jacuzzi, Frisbee… All these cases can be seen as an opportunity for recognition of a leader, but on the other hand under the threat of the leader being lost among the competitors.

Intellectual property lawyers often argue that using a product or trademark in this way runs the risk of what is called “genericide,” i.e., losing the legal power of the trademark. One of the first was Xerox, which for several years ran a campaign with publishers asking them not to use the name “Xerox” as a substitute for the generic term “photocopy.”

But today we know that brands are created by the set of experiences you have with them, and it is here that some of them have become verbs. This is because beyond the product, it is more important how they make people feel and for this it is necessary that they take action, taking into account that:

  • Brand proof matters. Social awareness of how brands behave in the world emerges.
  • Every interaction matters, and every one should be a memorable action to prove your brand promise.

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The result is that the relationship between brands and customers can be fragile and needs to be nurtured. Those that have managed to transform themselves into verbs, identifying the brand with a specific experience, have an important advantage.

Now we “WhatsApp” (or Wasapeamos), we don’t send each other messages. All of us “Google”, we don’t use a search engine. Even “Google” has come to mean much more than just using a search engine. It means searching, validating, informing, entertaining, saving time, finding out… It has become an extension of our own memory. Everything we don’t know, Google knows. He does great things for us and has a role in anyone’s life, deserving of his verb status like no one else. Where is Yahoo, which was just a noun?

When a brand becomes a verb, it is directly associated with what the brand does. Brands as verbs speak to a paradigm shift in how people feel about them. The change is not only functional, it also carries implications regarding how they behave.

And in this sense, the way brands behave has a direct relationship to the brand’s purpose – what it stands for (beyond growth and profit) and its general beliefs about its role in the world. This fits with the idea that brands are what they do.

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There’s something unique and special about brands that become verbs, and some studies place it in their purpose. Purpose-driven brands seem to be the ones most likely to become verbs. Other reports detect a second reason that brings us to terms of scale. It takes a lot of people to use the product or service for it to catch on in popular culture. This means that brands must reach a critical mass of users before there is a chance to become a verb.

From these two reasons, it could be said that itis the combination of purpose and popularity that turns brands into verbs. The reason is that adopting a brand purpose sets an expectation that the brand will behave accordingly. So, what the brand does is how it will be defined, whether it is finally verbalized or not.

Not all brands can become verbs, but those that do create immense brand equity and a substantial barrier of protection. Today you can already “make a Netflix”, imagine that instead of going to the bank “you made a Santander”, it would undoubtedly turn it into something much bigger. What do you think will be the next one to enter our vocabulary?


Carlos Puig Falcó

CEO of Branward