when BRANDS become CATEGORIES!

It’s still a national debate whether Nov 2016 demonetization has benefited the economy or not. But it did bring a paradigm shift in consumer behavior by making them use various online payment options like never before. As a result, digital transactions saw a manifold increase post demonetization with card & wallet players witnessing highest ever growth. Amongst all this, there’s one brand which struck gold. It’s Paytm. Overnight Paytm saw a huge jump in Paytm app install and usage from both merchants’ side and consumers’ side. Paytm is not the only player in digital payment/wallets but it got the maximum benefit of cashless revolution. Such was the impact that ‘Paytm Karo’ became the most commonly used phrase for wallet transactions. Sellers were saying ‘You don’t have cash, no issues, pay by card or Paytm kar do’. Buyers were often heard saying ‘I am short of cash, Paytm Kar doon?’. Paytm which is a brand name, a noun, became a verb. There is Freecharge, Mobikwik etc in the wallet space but it’s Paytm which became the category itself for consumers.

Brand name — Paytm

Category — Mobile Wallet

Consumer terminology — Paytm karo (Use Paytm)

Interestingly more than a year ago, Paytm had launched a campaign ‘Paytm Karo’ with an objective of owning the category through its marketing campaign. This communication and other strategies did help Paytm to grow its subscriber base and become the category leader but still the brand name was not synonymous to the wallet category. It’s only after demonetization and Paytm’s immediate actions of spreading the wallet to every nook and cranny of the country which made people say Paytm karo instead of wallet payment. (Just for the record, Flipkart also did a ‘Just Flipkart it’ campaign few years ago but no one generalized Flipkart for online shopping)

a screen grab from Paytm’s first ever brand ad

Brand Name — Dalda

Category — Vanaspati Ghee

Consumer terminology– 1 kg Dalda dena (Give me 1 kg Dalda)

Consumers’ habit of using a specific brand name instead of the product has always fascinated me because it shows the brand power and people’s affinity towards it. One of the first such brands that I can remember as a consumer and a marketer was Dalda. It was launched in India in the pre independence period by HUL (then known as Hindustan Vanaspati Manufacturing Co). The brand Dalda went on to become a household name and synonymous with the category of ‘vanaspati ghee’. While it has been replaced by Refined Oil in most Indian households now, people still refer to vanaspati ghee as ‘Dalda’ irrespective of which brand they are buying or whether it’s packaged or non packaged ghee.

To give perception of purity (like desi ghee) Mother quotient used in a vintage Dalda ad

Brand Name — Dettol

Category — Antiseptic Liquid

Consumer terminology — khoon nikal raha hai, Dettol laga lo (It’s bleeding, apply Dettol)

Another brand which owns the category is Dettol. How many of you know the name of the product? It’s Antiseptic Liquid but popularly known as Dettol because it has the first mover advantage and for years was a monopoly player until Savlon was launched. It’s one of the few FMCG categories which is a duopoly (two player market) and I wonder why?

Antiseptic Liquid popularly known as Dettol

Brand Name — Campa Cola

Category — Cold Beverage / Carbonated Cola

Consumer terminology — Campa le aa (Get a Campa)

Before I hit the teenage, Campa Cola was the most popular cold beverage brand in North India along with Thums Up, Gold Spot, Limca. Coke and Pepsi entered India in mid 90s, post globalisation and liberalisation reforms came, before that Indian cold beverage market was all about the above mentioned brands. While Thums Up, Gold Spot, Limca were occupied and slowed down by Coca Cola when they entered Indian markets, Campa Cola soon started fading away from shops because of aggressive marketing by Coca Cola and Pepsi. However, the name Campa didn’t fade from people’s minds for years and it remained synonymous with Cola beverage for quite some time. It was not uncommon for people to ask for Campa at a shop and buy a Coke or Pepsi, especially the slightly older population. Old habits die hard as they say!

For the Millenials who grew up with Campa Cola span

Brand Name — Surf

Catregory — Detergent Powder

Consumer terminology — Surf dena (Give me Surf)

During my summer internship days at Rediffusion Delhi, I met another intern, a Gwalior lad, Raj. As we broke ice, he told me about his family business dealing in Surf in Gwalior. I asked ‘so you are a distributor of Surf?’ he said ‘No, we sell loose surf’. On further enquiring, I realised he was referring to unbranded or loose detergent powder as ‘surf’.

Thanks to strong marketing, distribution and constant innovation, Surf defines the detergent powder category even today despite presence of numerous other national and local players in both branded and unbranded market. It’s not that Surf has not faced competition over these years, Nirma was once a strong competitor and now Ariel and Tide are equally popular. But it’s interesting how people still use surf generically for detergent powders including Raj who now sells surf (read detergent powder) under his own brand name Daulat (Wealth)

Surf decades old campaign that made Kavita Ji and Surf a household name

Brand name — Xerox

Category — Photocopy Machine

Consumer terminology — Xerox copy kara do (Get it Xeroxed)

The next in list is a done to death example of brand name being used generically. But this list is incomplete without Xerox. For years all of us have used the term Xerox instead of photo copy — get it Xeroxed, I need a Xerox copy etc. There’s Canon, HP, Konica but Xerox is still used generically for photo copy not only in India but globally. I just Googled ‘Xerox Copier’ and got a text ad for HP copier and two image ads for Konika and Canon copier (see RHS). Why? Because when people search for Xerox copier, they mean a photo copier and the online marketing team at HP or Canon wants to leverage this by bidding for Xerox in Google adwords.

Screen Gap of Google search for Xerox Copier

Owning the category is a big achievement for any brand, but it seems it’s a marketing challenge as well. Take a look at this ad published by Xerox years ago (I believe it’s a real one, I just found it online) where they have requested customers to use Xerox for its products only and not generically. I personally found this ad a desperate move because you can’t tell customers what to do and what not to do?

Defensive Marketing campaign by Xerox

Brand name — Google

Category — Search Engine

Consumer terminology — Google karte hain (Let’s Google it)

If you noticed above, I used a line ‘I just Goggled’ and that’s our next brand. Google is one of the most popular brands today and for most of us it’s something we use daily. We use Google ‘to search’ and ‘for search’. Such is the affinity towards the brand that it has become a synonym for searching online. And it defies the marketing logic of first mover advantage. Google was the last entrant in the online search engines market and some of its predecessors were Lycos, Alta Vista, Yahoo etc which are now in a state of oblivion. Today, over 95% of the searches online happen on Google, if you don’t believe me, just Google it :)

When search becomes Google it!

Becoming a market leader is one thing and defining the category is another. Every brand name that is used generically for the category is/was a market leader but every market leader brand may not be synonymous with the category. In simple words, it’s not the market share but the mind share that makes your brand synonymous with the category.

VC