To prevent their names from becoming generic, some companies use marketing to reinforce their trademarks. For instance, after its Band-Aid brand name started becoming commonly used to refer to adhesive bandages, Johnson & Johnsons changed its jingle in ads from "I'm Stuck on Band-Aid" to "I'm Stuck on Band-Aid brand."
Kleenex uses "Kleenex brand" instead of just "Kleenex" on its packaging and in marketing and places ads to remind people Kleenex is trademarked. And the company contacts some people who use Kleenex generically to refer to tissue in order to correct them.
"We've worked very hard to keep 'Kleenex' from going the route of 'escalator' and 'aspirin,'" says Vicki Margolis, vice president and chief counsel, intellectual property and global marketing for Kimberly-Clark, which owns Kleenex. "If we lose the trademark, people can use it with sandpaper and call that a Kleenex."
Xerox is taking a similar route. The company, which introduced the first automatic copier in the U.S. in 1959, has been on a public crusade for decades to keep its brand from becoming generic. The machine's success has led people to start using "Xerox" to refer to any copying machine, copies made from one and the act of copying.
"In the mid- to late-1970s, we ran dangerously close to Xerox becoming 'genericized,'" says Barbara Basney, vice president of global advertising. "That prompted a lot of proactive action to protect our trademark."
Xerox has spent millions taking out ads aimed at educating so-called "influencers" like lawyers, journalists and entertainers about its brand name. A 2003 ad said: "When you use 'Xerox' the way you use 'aspirin,' we get a headache." More recently, a 2007 ad read: "If you use "Xerox" the way you use "zipper," our trademark could be left wide open."
While people still use "Xerox" generically — the Merriam-Webster dictionary lists the word as both a lower-case verb with the definition "to copy on a xerographic copier" and a trademarked noun — the brand says its campaign has been a success.