There are occasions when a brand becomes a category. This is a double-edged sword. While it could be considered brand nirvana, it is also the road that leads to public domain. Once there, the brand becomes more difficult to enforce or control. I don’t know a single marketer however who would shy away from it. Becoming the Kleenex, the Xerox Machine, Windex, or the Osterizer has its benefits.
But when does this happen?
Besides the obvious scenario of being the only member of the category, it happens when people start using the brand as a proxy. This usually responds to either of the following three:
– Laziness. A known brand makes it easy to describe a category and we can communicate a complex concept with a single word. The most in-vogue modism today is probably “Über for ____ “
– Belonging. When you use the brand instead of the category, you indicate that you have bought in, you are part of the club. This is why you “called on your iPhone” or “Tivo the game”.
– Status. Certain brands indicate you are successful, that you are different. This is why you “took the Jag” or “fire up the Mac”.
When a brand is capable of eliciting these emotions, it’s on the road to defining the category.