Monthly Archives: February 2010

Verb-ization

Googling, tweeting are parts of our everyday vocabulary. Netflixing and kindling are not! So here’s a million dollar question: what takes it for your brand to be used as a verb? Brand becoming a verb is immensely powerful. The most important thing being it gains top of the mind brand positioning. Think of search engine and Google comes to mind or think of spreadsheet and Excel strikes you instantaneously.

One argument on what takes for a brand to be verb-ized is that the name should have the potential to verb up. That’s true in some sense. A better way to put this would be if verb-ed up, the name should not have a preexisting meaning (like kindling or living in case of Kindle and Live search respectively). But more important things that play a role here are the widespread use of the product (of the same brand), superiority of the offering and the viral effect. When you keep using the same product again and again, and it is superior enough to dominate the product category, it becomes easier to be used as a verb. Viral effect does play a big role as well. It becomes easier to be used as a verb if the people you are talking to know what it means. Like it makes more sense when you ask someone to xerox it for you and you get a photocopy done.

But then verb-ization can sometimes be a double-edged sword. How often have you bought a HP machine and xeroxed on it? Xerox became so integrated in human vocabulary that sometimes it doesn’t strike us that Xerox is in fact a brand, which is definitely not ideal for Xerox. It takes a lot of toll to build a brand, and while it’s a dream for every company to take their brand to the point of verb-ization, it is important to make sure that the brand doesn’t become too generic to lose its identity. It would be really destructive for Google, the product, if people starts googling on Bing to make their next purchase or plan their next vacation!

P.S. Thanks to Nandeeta Seth, Rafat Sarosh, Miles Witherspoon and Shailesh Shah for their inputs.

It starts with the shoe

Once upon a time, a business school graduate started selling Japanese track and field shoes from the trunk of his car. In a couple of years, the business became profitable enough to open a retail store. Then he started manufacturing his own line of branded shoes for track and field athletes. After mastering the shoe business, he introduced a line of sportswear for this sport. And in a couple of decades since inception, became the behemoth in the sportswear and equipment industry.

This is Phil Knight’s story and the building of Nike!

What is special about Nike is the strategy of returning to its roots in whichever sport it chooses to enter. Nike understands that what they do best is manufacture a pair of shoes. It started with track and field shoes and went on to design apparel and accessories for athletes in this sport. Then when they chose to move to some other sport like football, they first  started with making shoes for the football players. Their expertise in shoe designing and manufacturing helped them build loyalty in the football playing community. After establishing the brand, it made the entire ecosystem for the players of the sport from headbands to socks to the ball itself. Similar cycle went on to continue in each sport.

The idea is to embrace your roots to set a foot in the door and then build an ecosystem around it to grow in the industry. You got to choose what you are best at doing and exploit that core competency when you are going for extensions. If that’s something you present to a new set of customers, chances are they are going to love it. It will be comparatively much easier for you to enter this new market as well as launch other branded products in the market. To put it simply, identify what’s the shoe for your business and start with it.