Brand names are pervasive. You use products daily, and often don’t even pay attention to the branding. They’re just things you own, and things you rely on.

For example, you’ll reach for a can of WD-40 to loosen a rusty bolt. Open the refrigerator and you probably have a box of Arm & Hammer baking soda tucked away. Every time you pair two electronic devices you’re using Bluetooth.

These brands are everywhere, but their brand names also have interesting origin stories.


WD-40 is wondrous. It loosens bolts, silences squeaks, gets rid of rust, unsticks gum, cleans tiles, and removes goo. It’s like duct tape — no home should be without it.

Invented in 1953, WD-40’s name is as functional as the product. It stands for “Water Displacement, 40th Formula.”

According to WD-40’s website, “In 1953, a fledgling company called Rocket Chemical Company and its staff of three set out to create a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for use in the aerospace industry … it took them 40 attempts to get the water displacing formula worked out.”

Persistence paid off, and the name stuck.

Arm & Hammer

Arm & Hammer is the world’s largest baking soda brand, and its name is synonymous with the product.

The name originated from a succession plan. In 1846, Dr. Austin Church and John Dwight began preparing bicarbonate of soda for commercial distribution. They built a thriving company. In 1867, Dr. Austin retired and his sons acquired the business.

The Arm & Hammer logo and name were brought over from Dr. Church’s youngest son’s company, Vulcan Spice Mills. Arm & Hammer symbolized the myth of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire, who would strike his mighty hammer on his anvil.

It was an effective brand, both in name and logo, and was adapted to the baking soda product line. Today the name is recognized as a symbol of baking soda around the world.


Along with WiFi, Bluetooth connected devices are ubiquitous in the modern home.

Bluetooth’s brand name has the tone of a modern tech startup. It’s a catchy word, but kind of meaningless. It looks like an invented word like Yahoo!, Yelp, or Hulu. Turns out there’s much more depth to Bluetooth than an invented word.

Bluetooth comes from the Viking king of Denmark between 958 and 970, Harald Blatand. His surname translates to “bluetooth.” Legend has it that King Blatand suffered from a dead tooth that was reported to have turned blue. Hence, the weird nickname.

The king was famous for uniting parts of Denmark and Norway into one nation. He was effective at establishing communications between two parties in a non-violent manner.

The story of King Blatand made for a powerful symbol for the Bluetooth brand. He was a role model for developing communication technologies, and getting disparate devices to talk with each other.

Take a Look Around

Take a look around your home and notice the volume of brand names that you interact with daily.

It’s really quite remarkable. Everything has a name. It’s the most fundamental building block of a brand.

As you look, notice the names that stand out. These are the kinds of names you want to strive to be like when you name a brand.

You're reading How 3 Common Household Items Got their Names by Jeremy Miller, originally posted on Sticky Branding. Did you enjoy this article? If so, sign-up for more of Jeremy's articles at Sticky Branding.

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Sticky Branding by Jeremy Miller - 1w ago

Like so many other aspects of life, branding is easier said than done. It comes down to mastering a set of behaviors that are theoretically uncomplicated, but are also difficult to put into practice consistently.

For instance, I wrote in Branding Is Simple, “‘It’s the relationship, stupid.’ Strong brands form strong relationships with customers. It’s that simple. When your customers know your brand, like it, and trust it — they’ll choose it first.”

Building strong customer relationships is theoretically uncomplicated, but achieving the desired outcome is complicated. There are no silver bullets or simple paths, because the brand building process is multifactorial.

Simple Solutions Create Confusion

Too many complex problems are reduced into simple yet ineffective maxims.

Dieters, for instance, are told the key to lasting weight loss is to “Eat less. Move more.” That sounds simple enough, but the science proves otherwise. According to Jason Fung, author of the Obesity Code, 99% of diets fail. He argues convincingly that obesity is more than the amount of food you eat or the amount you exercise, it’s a multifactorial disease.

Fung writes, “Virtually all diseases of the human body are multifactorial. Consider cardiovascular disease. Family history, age, gender, smoking, high blood pressure and physical activity all influence, perhaps not equally, the development of heart disease.”

He continues, “There is no one single cause of obesity. Do calories cause obesity? Yes, partially. Do carbohydrates cause obesity? Yes, partially. Does fiber protect us from obesity? Yes, partially. Does insulin resistance cause obesity? Yes, partially. Does sugar cause obesity? Yes, partially. All these factors converge on several hormonal pathways that lead to weight gain.”

Jason Fung’s message on obesity is applicable to business. Complex challenges, like growing your brand, involve addressing multiple factors to achieve your desired outcome.

Simple answers to multifactorial problems are rarely going to give you the results that you want.

The Solution, It Depends

How do you grow a Sticky Brand? It depends.

As a business owner, I hate hearing “It depends.” I don’t want to pay for “audits” and “discovery calls” and other forms of naval gazing. I want solutions that deliver clear and tangible outcomes.

But as a leader, I have to be accountable. There are no silver bullets, simple maxims, and easy answers to growing my business. My team and I have to master a lot of little things to achieve our goals.

The solution to your branding goals depends on multiple factors: size of business, reputation, position in the marketplace, brand awareness, structure and effectiveness of your team, ability to iterate and change your business model, and financial resources.

Your solution is found in your strategic plan — how you will move your organization From X to Y by When. The levers you choose to pull will depend on your situation.

Where to Start with a Brand Strategy

Branding is theoretically uncomplicated, but the brand building process is multifactorial. I recommend starting with an exercise to tackle three big questions:

  1. Where is your brand today, and where does it need to move towards?
  2. What’s working, and what isn’t working?
  3. Who here is part of the team moving forward, and who has stopped growing and cannot keep up?

When you embrace the complexity of your situation you can simplify your path forward, and be able to pull the levers that will have a measurable impact on your business.

What do you think?

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Every brand has a shelf life, and It’s getting shorter and shorter.

Every three to seven years your brand needs a tune up, depending on the industry. Technology brands, for instance, change faster and more frequently than industrial brands. Regardless of the industry, we all face the pressure to evolve our brands to remain relevant.

One of the most visible areas you can see the aging process is in your website. Corporate websites tend to need a visual overhaul every two to four years. In the third year they start to look tired, and by the fourth they look dilapidated.

Imagine what a dilapidated website says to customers about your brand?

Three Signs Your Website Is Past Its Due Date

There are three signs your website may be out of date:

  • Your website doesn’t look good on mobile devices. Having a responsive or mobile friendly website is critical. Not only are you driving away mobile users who cannot read your website, you’re driving away Google. Google penalizes websites that are not mobile friendly.
  • Slow website performance. Google ranks faster websites higher. If two sites offer similar content, Google favors the site with faster page load times. You can test your site’s performance at GTmetrix.
  • Your website looks old fashioned and out of date. Fashion and tastes change, and you can visually spot the layout of a website designed in 2018 versus 2014.

Any of these issues may initiate a website redesign project, but don’t stop there. This is your opportunity to reevaluate your brand and determine if your brand strategy and positioning are current too.

An Outdated Website Is a Symptom of an Outdated Brand

The challenge with a new website project is it’s just the tip of your branding problems.

As soon as you start updating the website plenty of other branding projects start to popup. It’s a little like home renovation. You start with your kitchen, and soon your renovating the whole house.

Website overhauls follow a predictable trajectory:

  • As you work on the site design you make some adjustments to your logo and visual identity.
    • That triggers redoing all of your letterhead and business cards.
  • Then you rewrite all the copy on your site with a refined value proposition and better stories.
    • That triggers redoing all your brochures and marketing collateral.
  • Then you look at the executive biographies and they need work too.
    • That triggers a photoshoot with more copywriting.

What started as a $15,000 to $20,000 project can quickly balloon into a $100,000 rebranding project.

Start with a Brand Audit: Where Are You Today?

Before diving into a website project, take an audit of your brand:

  1. Where is your brand today?
  2. What else needs to be updated?

Examine each customer touch point and evaluate its effectiveness:

  • Does it articulate your brand and value proposition effectively?
  • Does it present your brand in a unique and compelling way?
  • Does it drive prospects and customers to clear and logical next steps?

Doing an audit at the start of a major marketing project will save you a lot of heartache, scope creep, and budget overruns. It’s better to know what you’re getting into before you start.

All brands evolve because businesses evolve. It’s only logical to expect that your brand will need to be refreshed every three to seven years. Use your website as an early warning system, because an out of date website is a sign of an out of date brand.

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Sticky Branding by Jeremy Miller - 3w ago

Sometimes we need a quick reality check. Branding is simple.

There’s a tendency to make branding complicated, but it’s not. To paraphrase James Carville, “It’s the relationship, stupid.”

Strong brands form strong relationships with customers. It’s that simple. When your customers know your brand, like it, and trust it — they’ll choose it first.

If you get the relationship right, everything else gets so much easier.

Build Relationships Early and Often

The best time to start building a customer relationship is three years before they have a need for your products and services.

Three years may seem like a long time, especially if you have a short sales cycle, but building relationships goes beyond sales transactions.

Three years is a good time horizon, because getting customers to know your brand, like it, and trust it takes time. Think of your brand as a bank. Each positive customer interaction is a small deposit of trust.

Serving your customers well, generating reviews and buzz, and promoting your brand are all deposits in the trust bank.

Relationships Bring Customers Back

A brand isn’t sticky without repeat customers.

Winning a sale is great, but there’s something wrong if the customer doesn’t come back again and again.

Marketing hype scratches off quickly. Brands like Sweet Jesus can create controversy and publicity to generate awareness and get lots of one-time customers. But strong brands have substance. There’s more to them than great marketing.

Investing in customer relationships delivers two tangible benefits:

  1. Higher customer loyalty. Customers are less likely to “kick the tires” and explore other options when they know, like, and trust your brand.
  2. Lower customer acquisition costs. It’s less expensive to sell your products and services when your brand has deep customer relationships. These customers are fans. They refer often, and provide social proof.

Loyal customers and lower customer acquisitions costs are competitive advantages that you can take the bank.

Branding Is a Process

Building lasting relationships is a process that takes time and commitment, but it’s fundamental to branding.

When your customers know your brand, like it, and trust — they’ll choose it first.

Building strong customer relationships starts with a choice. Do you want to sell to a customer once, or are you building a brand where your customers come back again and again?

I choose the latter.

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Your customers are looking for a good product at a fair price, but some customers just ask for too much. They demand deep discounts and excessive payment terms, and they push and push.

A procurement manager once joked to me, “We squeeze a nickel until the beaver poops!”

This is a Canadian colloquialism, because the Canadian 5¢ coin has a beaver on it. The procurement manager was pointing out their unstated policy: squeeze vendors for every nickel.

Selling on price sucks. Use this sales tactic when you or your sales reps feel excessive pressure, “Close the Briefcase.”

A Powerful Sales Tactic

Early in my career I brought my sales manager along to help me close a big deal. I’d been negotiating with a prospective customer for several weeks, and I needed his help bring this “whale” home.

It was a difficult meeting. The customer clearly wanted our product, but he kept throwing up roadblocks and demands that our CFO wouldn’t accept.

After 40 minutes of going nowhere my sales manager shocked me. He closed his notebook and said, “Gentlemen, I appreciate the time you have invested with us, but it appears we can’t do business with you. You’re not a fit for us.” He stood up and headed for the door. He gave me a quick look and said, “Let’s go Jeremy.”

I was in shock. I’m pretty sure every bit of color drained from my face. This was a big deal. It had the potential to make my year, and my manager just killed it!

In a daze I stood up and headed for the door.

Before we even made it past reception the President of the firm called us back. He came rushing out, and asked for five more minutes. The next five minutes were a breeze. The customer accepted the terms, and the deal was done.

Close the Briefcase

My manager explained afterwards that he used the “Close the Briefcase” sales technique. The name comes from a time when salesmen carried a briefcase. Closing ones briefcase was a sign the meeting was over.

He said, “Not all deals are good deals. Be proud of what you sell, and never let anyone beat you up on price or denigrate our brand. You have to have the courage to walk away if a customer doesn’t fit.

My manager then smiled wryly and said, “But no customer ever likes to be told they can’t buy.”

Walking away shifts the balance of power. Essentially you’re saying, “Take it or leave it.”

It takes intestinal fortitude to walk away from a prospect, and sometimes it means losing a deal. But if the customer seriously wants your services they’ll come back and accept your terms.

If you’re willing to be strong and proud of your brand, you can walk away from a bad customer. And you should.

Why It Works

I love the Close the Briefcase sales technique for three reasons:

  1. Know Your Value. It’s really easy to get caught up in a sales process and try to win at all costs, but not all customers are good customers. Know your value, take pride in it, and sell it. If a prospect doesn’t recognize or want what you have to offer, then don’t try to convince them. Walk away.
  2. Don’t Waste Time. Negotiating is a step in the sales process. There’s no point wasting your time trying to convince someone to buy when all they care about is getting the cheapest price.
  3. Position of Power. No one likes to hear, “No.” The thing that surprises me most about the Close the Briefcase tactic is how many customers reverse their position after they know you’re prepared to walk from the deal. You are taking back control by saying “no,” and showing the boundaries of how far you will negotiate.

Closing the briefcase is a power move. You don’t use it often, but it’s incredibly effective when you do.

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Managers and executives misunderstand strategy all the time.

At a CEO retreat, I asked the group to take five minutes to draw an illustration of their organization’s strategy. The challenge was to create an easy to share model or flowchart to illustrate their strategy on one page.

The group was initially taken aback by the exercise. This was a CEO peer group that met monthly, and they talked about strategy regularly. One participant said, “Five minutes? Seriously? I can have it done in 30 seconds.” I reassured the group that the exercise had a point, and set the clock.

The strategies they created divided into three predictable buckets:

  1. Goals: Achieve a revenue, profit, or market share target. For example, grow to $25 million in sales by 2020.
  2. Actions: Complete a task or project that is perceived important for the business. For instance, open a new office or launch a new product.
  3. Priorities: Define areas of investment for time, resources, or capital to advance the company, such as increase brand awareness in digital channels.

Goals, Actions, and Priorities are not strategies. They may help inform the creation of a strategy, but they’re not your strategy.

Richard Rumelt writes in Good Strategy / Bad Strategy, “Strategy is about how an organization will move forward. Doing strategy is figuring out how to advance the organization’s interests.”

“How” is the critical component. You create and implement a strategy to effectively achieve a goal.

Goal setting is essential to defining a good strategy. “What do you want?” is the first question I ask when kicking off the strategic planning process, because if you don’t know what you want it’s really hard to craft a clear, concise strategy.

With a clearly defined objective you can plot the steps to get there.

Roger Martin and A.G. Lafley provide an excellent framework in Playing To Win to define the “how.” They define a strategy through five big questions:

  1. What is our winning aspiration?
  2. Where will we play?
  3. How will we win?
  4. What capabilities must be in place?
  5. What management systems are required?

Your strategy is defined by how you answer the questions. The ideal is to make your strategy simple, clear, and concise. If done well, it should fit on a page or two.

When everyone on your team clearly knows where they are going and how they’ll get there, you’ve got a strategy.

The process of developing a clear and concise strategy is deceptively hard. It often takes iterations and experimentation to clarify your thinking and prove that you’re on the right track. But the rigor is what generates your desired results.

Try the exercise for yourself. Sketch out your organization’s strategy on a blank piece of paper. Can you describe how you will move your organization from Point A to B?

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Sticky Branding by Jeremy Miller - 1M ago

Category defining brands can become verbs:

  • You don’t just search the internet, you google it.
  • You ask for a Kleenex, not a tissue.
  • You xerox your notes, versus making photocopies.

These brands are so potent that they replaced the generic product names. But this leads me to a question. Why do some category defining brands become verbs while others do not?

Apple is the most valuable brand in the world, but we don’t use “Apple” as a verb. The same is true with Amazon, Facebook, and Disney. These companies are wildly successful household names, but we don’t use their brand names as verbs.

There’s something unique and special about brands that become verbs, and it’s in their purpose. Purpose-based brands are the most likely brand names to become verbs.

Google was designed for finding information online, and it does the job better than any other service. As Google became ubiquitous in the early 2000’s, the brand started to transition into pop-culture. For example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the first American TV series to use the brand as a verb in 2002. In the episode Help, Willow asked Buffy, “Have you googled her yet?”

The question made sense, especially in the early days of Google, because it was a purpose-based brand. The service did one thing really, really well: search the internet for answers.

There are dozens of examples of brand names that became verbs: FedEx, Hoover, TiVo, Velcro, WiFi, Jacuzzi, Aspirin, and Trampoline, to name a few. What all of these products have in common is purpose. They are purpose-based brands designed to fulfill a job, and as a result customers talked about them.

This leads to the second reason why some brand names become verbs. Successful companies create successful brands, and never the other way around. The success of a brand can tip the name from a narrowly defined solution to a ubiquitous word.

Scale matters when converting brand names into verbs. You need to have a lot of people commonly using the product or service to have it enter pop-culture. This means brands must achieve a critical mass of users before there’s an opportunity to become a verb.

It’s the combination of purpose and popularity that convert brand names into verbs.

Not all brands become verbs, but the few that do create immense brand equity and a substantial barrier to entry. Can you imagine another search engine unseeding Google at this point?

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P.T. Barnum once said, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

I am sure there can be a case made for P.T. Barnum’s position, but I’d argue offending your customers is never a good idea — especially when you’re entering a new market.

Toronto-based ice cream parlour, Sweet Jesus pissed off the locals as they entered the U.S. market and now face a boycott with Christians calling the branding “hate speech.” A petition against the company in CitizenGo.org states, “Choosing the name of our Lord for a brand of soft-serve ice cream is totally offensive and revolting.”

Despite the controversy, the company is keeping the name. Andrew Richmond, CEO of Monarch and Misfits — the restaurant group that owns Sweet Jesus — said in a statement to the CBC, “After a lot of thought, we have decided that we will not make a change.”

He continues, “We are conscious of the fact that, to some, our name can be off-putting … That fact is something we struggle with, because we sincerely do not wish to give offence or show disrespect in any way toward anyone’s personal beliefs.”

I applaud Andrew and his team for their grit, but I don’t think they’ve overcome this challenge yet. The brand will offend more Americans than it will please. My advice is to change the company name. Here’s why.

Your Name Works Here, but Not There

Canada and the United States are close neighbors and we have a lot in common, but we’re also very different.

Religion is one of the differences between the countries. According to Mara Einstein, author of Brands of Faith, “Religion is more widely practiced in the United States than in any other industrialized nation in the world. The most widely publicized statistics are that 40 to 45 percent of Americans attend a religious service on a weekly basis while more than 90 percent claim to believe in a higher power.”

The stats are very different in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, 21% of Canadians attend a religious service on a weekly basis, and 65% believe in a higher power.

For this reason, and this reason alone, I believe Sweet Jesus is making a mistake not changing its name for the American market.

On the Sweet Jesus website the company writes, “Our name was created from the popular phrase that people use as an expression of enjoyment, surprise or disbelief. Our aim is not to offer commentary on anyone’s religion or belief systems. Our own organization is made up of amazing people that represent a wide range of cultural and religious beliefs.”

That statement may work in Canada, but it’s not going to assuage American consumers. The name is toxic.

Launching in a Foreign Market Is Harder than You Think

Even without a boycott, Sweet Jesus faces a difficult road ahead. Launching a brand in a foreign market has an incredibly high failure rate:

  • Target failed spectacularly in its attempt to conquer Canada. The company launched and shuttered 133 stores within two years.
  • Harry Rosen spent a decade trying to grow its presence in the United States, to abandon the venture and focus on its core Canadian business.
  • Tim Hortons Inc. has struggled to expand in the U.S. since opening its first store in Tonawanda, New York in 1984.

Developing foreign markets may make sense on paper, but business models and operations don’t transition seamlessly. Differences in supply chains, cultures, competition, and buyer expectations have a nasty habit of breaking brands.

With established brands like Jeni’s and Salt & Straw in the U.S., Sweet Jesus is entering a very competitive market. These companies deliver incredible products, have loyal customers, and there’s nothing offensive or polarizing about the brands.

Sweet Jesus needs to win the hearts and minds of new customers. It has an advantage in its Instagram-worthy desserts, but customers don’t come back twice if they find your brand offensive.

Capture the Momentum, Change the Name

Sweet Jesus is more than a name, it’s a branding system. The company may argue, “Our aim is not to offer commentary on anyone’s religion or belief systems,” but religion is baked into the brand identity:

  • The tip jar states, “What Would Jesus Tip?”
  • The sign on the sidewalk reads, “Bless Your Mouth.”
  • One of the desserts is called the “Sweet Baby Jesus.”

The brand is fundamentally flawed for the United States market and deserves a name change. But it’s not all bad.

Sweet Jesus have proven themselves masters of publicity. The company can leverage the national media coverage and brand awareness to its advantage. It can work with local groups to co-create an evocative name that engages versus repels customers.

If Sweet Jesus can change the conversation and engage its markets, then P.T. Barnum’s quote fits. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, provided you win them over.

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Sticky Branding by Jeremy Miller - 2M ago

Crunchy. Salty. Cheesy. Nachos are one of the most shareable snacks ever created. But did you know, nachos are named after their inventor?

Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya created the iconic dish in 1943.

I’ve been researching the origin of common brand names. It’s surprising how some of the most common names we interact with daily have fascinating stories.

Nachos, for instance, was a dish invented in a pinch.

During World War II, a group of U.S. military wives ventured over to Piedras Negras, a small Mexican town on the Texas border, to shop and socialize. When they decided to stop for dinner they discovered that all the nearby restaurants had closed.

Fortunately for the ladies, they met Ignacio Anaya, the maître d’ of the Victory Club. Ignacio was a master of hospitality and refused to turn the ladies away, but he was in a pickle. The Victory Club’s chef had left for the day.

Ignacio decided he would cook a dish for the group.

He looked around the kitchen and used what he could find. He cut up some tortillas into triangles, and plunged them into the deep fryer to crisp them up. He then topped the chips with cheese and sliced jalapeño peppers, and put his concoction in the oven for a few minutes.

Out of the oven came the signature dish we know so well, nachos.

Ignacio was a bit of a showman. He presented his unique snack to the ladies, and told them it was “Nachos Especiales.” Nacho was Ignacio’s nickname.

The ladies loved his dish, and they came home and raved about Nachos Especiales. The next week the ladies returned with their husbands, and soon the Victory Club developed a reputation for its delightful snack.

Over time, people shortened the name “Nachos Especiales” to simply “nachos.”

Another interesting twist to the nachos story, in the 1960’s Ignacio’s son attempted to trademark his father’s dish. Ignacio Anaya Jr. said, “I talked to a lawyer in San Antonio. He said there’s not much you can do after seventeen years. It’s in the public domain.”

Even though, Ignacio Anaya Jr. couldn’t trademark his father’s dish, his family must be proud. Ignacio created a delicious snack in a moment of desperation, and it became a staple of Mexican cuisine.

Nachos is one story of many. An interesting game to play with friends is “How did it get that name?” You will find lots of stories. Try it for caesar salad, leotards, or the Guinness World Record.

Let me know if you liked this story. Would you like me to share more origin stories of brands and names?

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Great brand names can become common words like Google or Kleenex. These are category defining brands that people convert into verbs and nouns. For example, you don’t just search the internet, you google it.

What’s surprising is how many brand names have transitioned into everyday language. Below are 25 examples of brands that became common words. And if you’re keeping count, you’ll find 7 more names placed in the copy of this post.


The Band-Aid was invented in 1920, and trademarked by Johnson & Johnson. The trademark is active today, but regardless of the product do you know an “adhesive bandage” by any other name?

Bubble Wrap

Eric Buss' "Bubble Wrap Bike" - YouTube

Bubble Wrap is a brilliant packing material, and an immensely fun noise maker. The product was invented in 1957, and is a trademark of Sealed Air Corporation.


Walk the grocery store aisles and you will see countless items wrapped in cellophane. Cellophane is a thin, transparent sheet made of regenerated cellulose. It is trademarked in Europe and several other countries by Innovia Films, but is a genericized product in the United States.


Lip balm may be the generic name, but Chapstick captures the essence of the product. Chapstick is one of Pfizer’s consumer brands. Due to the name’s popularity, the term has become a genericized trademark.


A Crock-Pot is a brand of slow cooker by Sunbeam Products. These handy devices cook your food all day at a low temperature so you have a tasty stew ready when you get home from work.

Dry Ice

Dry Ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide. (Thank you Wikipedia. I learned something new today.) The DryIce Corporation of America trademarked the solid form of CO2 as “Dry Ice.” The name stuck, and became the common name for the substance.


Dumpster is one of the words that surprised me in the list. For some reason, I just assumed this is what you call a garbage bin. But it’s a brand of the Dempster Brothers. The name is a portmanteau — the blending of two words — of the word “dump” and the last name Dempster.


Otis Elevator Co. trademarked the word “escalator” in 1899. The word was created by combining the Latin word for step, scala, with the word “elevator.”


Fiberglass is the brand name for “glass wool.” It was trademarked by the Owens-Corning company.

Flip Phone

Some of the most common words began life as trademarked brands. Flip Phone was originally a trademark of Motorola.


Frisbee is a trademark of Wham-O. What’s surprising is the number of brands that Wham-O created into generic names: Hacky Sack, Hula Hoop, Super Ball, Silly String, and Slip ‘n Slide. Wham-O are branding legends.


Laundromat was another surprising name for me on the list. This is trademark for a coin laundry shop. It was registered by Westinghouse in the 1940s, but they let the trademark expire.

Memory Stick

Sony branded portable flash memory as a Memory Stick in 1998. The first Memory Stick held up to 128 MB. It’s kind of quaint to think that was a lot of storage back then. My iPhone has 128 GB of storage, and I still keep running out of space.

Ping Pong

Ping Pong is a brand of table tennis products owned by Parker Bros.. The name was coined in 1901. The founders thought the sound the small ball made when it’s hit across the table sounded like “ping pong.”


Popsicle, generically known as “ice pops” or “freezer pops,” is a registered trademark of Unilever. Frank Epperson popularized Popsicles after patenting the concept of “frozen ice on a stick” in 1923. Epperson claimed to have first created an ice pop in 1905 at the age of 11 when he accidentally left a glass of powdered soda and water with a mixing stick in it on his porch during a cold night.


This is another “Who knew?” name for me. Real estate agents are often called “realtors,” but the term is a trademark of the National Association of Realtors. The terms “Realtor” and “Realtors” refers to members of the association, and not to real estate agents generally.

Seeing Eye Dog

The Seeing Eye, Inc. is a guide dog school located in Morristown, New Jersey. Since 1929, the organization has trained guide dogs to assist visually impaired people. Interestingly, a “Seeing Eye Dog” is a trademark. If the dog is trained by anyone else it’s a “guide dog.” This is another example of a remarkably effective brand name.


Sheetrock is the trademark held by United States Gypsum Corporation (USG) for their drywall product. Sheetrock is omnipresent in modern home construction, and has largely replaced plaster.


Styrofoam may not be considered a “green product” anymore, but it’s still commonly used for foam cups, plates and coolers. Styrofoam is the branded product of polystyrene. The trademark is held by Dow Chemical.

Super Glue

“Super glue” is used informally as a verb or noun, but it is a trademarked product of Super Glue Corporation. It’s a brand of cyanoacrylate adhesive, and as we all know it’s super sticky.

Super Heroes

This is really neat. Super Heroes is a jointly owned trademark by DC Comics and Marvel Comics. I guess only DC and Marvel heroes can be super.


George Nissen and Larry Griswold invented the Trampoline in 1936. Nissen was a gymnastics and diving competitor and Griswold was a tumbler on the gymnastics team. The name came from the Spanish word “trampolín,” meaning a diving board. Nissen had heard the word on a demonstration tour in Mexico in the late 1930s, and decided to use an anglicized form as the trademark for the apparatus.


Videotape was originally trademarked by Ampex Corporation. They were an early manufacturer of audio and video tape recorders, and quickly became a leader in audio tape technology. Ampex developed many of the analog recording formats for both music and movies that remained in use into the 1990s.


Windbreaker is a trademarked word for jackets made by Celebration Trading Inc.. A windbreaker is a thin coat designed to resist wind chill and light rain, a lighter version of a jacket. The name is currently becoming a genericized trademark.


The zipper may be the greatest piece of automation ever invented for clothing. The Zipper was originally a trademark of B.F. Goodrich for use in rubber boots. The word Zipper is onomatopoetic — a word that phonetically imitates the sound that it describes. Zipper was named for the sound the device makes when used, a high-pitched zip.

Your Turn

This is only a small sampling of brands that became common words. What other words do you use that originated as brand names?

Tweet your examples to @StickyBranding.

You're reading 25 Brand Names That Became Common Words by Jeremy Miller, originally posted on Sticky Branding. Did you enjoy this article? If so, sign-up for more of Jeremy's articles at Sticky Branding.

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