Verbing a Company Name is an Unrealistic Expectation

Apparently, someone started a rumor that the best indication your company has “made it” or “arrived” is that enigmatic moment when its name becomes an official verb. google-logoGoogle is probably the biggest culprit of fostering this rumor. It has been accepted into the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and entrepreneurs, marketers, bloggers and even business professors are quick to remind us of the correlation with its ginormous success.

It might have been Guy Kawasaki that started the rumor when he said that “great companies have verb potential.” Don’t get me wrong; I have a lot of respect for Mr. Kawasaki. And there may be some truth to this. But the whole concept is a bit hard to swallow because it’s so unrealistic. I mean, how many businesses are there in the world? Thousands? Millions? Hundreds of millions? Lots. And out of all the companies launched throughout history, how many have ever achieved such glorified status? Well, let’s see. There’s Google, of course. Xerox “made it”. There’s also Photoshop, Digg and some might even argue that Hoover is a verb that means “to vacuum”. Any others? If so, probably not too many. The odds of achieving verb status are slim to none.

So what gives? Why are we all so excited about the prospect of our company name being used as a verb? I think it has more to do with the hope of becoming as successful as Google than it does being able to identify when that happens. But the founders of Google didn’t choose their company name because they thought it had verb potential. Neither did the founders of Xerox. Or Hoover. It simply happened by accident. And Adobe has even published guidelines about the “proper use of the Photoshop trademark”, which makes it very clear that using their trademark as a verb is an “incorrect” use of the word.

Verbing a company name is ceratinly not indicative of sustainability. That’s right, I said verbing. The whole process actually has more to do with brand ubiquity. It demands savvy placement and promotional marketing that positions the product in the minds of consumers as a substitute for a related verb. This is much easier said than done.

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