On Generic Brand Names and the Importance of Being First

Everybody who sometimes orders a Coke will inevitably once or twice end up with Pepsi.

It’s not the barman’s fault.

Coca-Cola has become generic for cola.

Just like Xerox has for copiers.

Or Advil for ibuprofen.

These brands became the standard in the industry for one simple reason: they were there first.

Because they were first in the marketplace, they were first in the mind.

Take Ping Pong, for example, which was trademarked in 1901 as a brand of table tennis products named for the sound the ball makes when it hits the table. From there, it turned into a global sport.

Being first in people’s minds is all that matters.

Many people who work in marketing believe that it’s the best product or service that wins the game.

That’s not the case.

It’s the product or service that got into the mind first.

The brand who’s first has a chance of becoming generically known for much more than just its product or service.

Luckily, there are many ways to become first in the mind of your audience.

A new product category (Like Escalator, introduced by Otis in 1900).

A new innovation (Google, introduced in 1988).

A new way of doing things (Photoshop, introduced in 1990 by Adobe).

A new way of reaching your audience (Powerpoint, introduced in 1990 by Microsoft).

A new activity (Frisbee, introduced in 1957 by Wham-O, who also trademarked the iconic Hula-Hoop).

And even a new habit (TV Dinner, introduced in 1954 by Swanson and Sons).

But whatever you introduce, it needs to be disruptive.

Disruptive enough to blast itself into the mind of your audience.

And disruptive enough to stick.

Be the first.