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Inadvertent Advertising: It’s All In The Name


“I was on my way to the stationary store to Xerox some cards and cellophane them onto a bag of gifts, but as I made my way down the escalator I tripped over a heroin addict’s thermos and fell flat on my face.”

Besides the weird nature of the events that followed, what is wrong with that sentence?

According to VELCRO®, a lot actually. Words like ‘Xerox’, ‘cellophane’, ‘escalator’, ‘thermos’ and even ‘heroin’ were once company-registered trademarks but because of their frequent use in our everyday language, these trademarks have lost their distinction and credibility due to their owners allowing them to be misused by the public.

The ‘Proper Usage’ section of their website (yes, VELCRO® has an entire page dedicated to the correct usage of their name) states that “VELCRO” cannot be used as a noun or generic, but instead we the public must use the term ‘hook and loop fastener’ when describing that wondrous fluffy material found on trainers and backpacks.

They then sign off by saying:

“There is no such thing as a ‘Velcro wallet’ or a ‘Velcro runner’. You can’t buy a piece of ‘velcro.’ but you can purchase all the VELCRO® brand hook and loop fasteners you need.”

But for a brand, is this really a problem? We don’t think so.

Everyday we hear discerning customers (and not even loyal ones at that) proclaim their need to purchase a pack of Pampers instead of diapers, or a box of Kleenex instead of tissues or even Tupperware instead of containers.

Many other companies spend millions of dollars to build awareness and advertising recall by blasting an array of media outlets just to achieve this result – a result that VELCRO® does not seem to want.

This phenomenon is a prime example of top-of-mind awareness (TOMA) that inadvertently leads to free advertising, as the name of the brand trumps the actual name of the product just by word of mouth.

It’s through their innovation, ingenuity and frankly just being the best at what they do, that makes this achievable. You not only create a household name for your brand and own top of your field – your brand becomes the field!

Is YOUR brand reaping the rewards of its name?

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