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When does a brand name create influence?

We’ve all done it. Some of us often and some only occasionally.

We’ve all been guilty of genericide at some point – or, when a trademark or brand name has become the colloquial or generic description for the product or service, i.e. when someone needs a bandage they ask for a BAND-AID®or they need a tissue but refer to it as a Kleenex®.  Or in the digital age, when people say, “Facebook me!” or “Tweet me!”

Last week the French TV regulatory agency Conseil sup©rieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA), determined that the French can no longer say the words Facebook or Twitter on television unless they are used in the context of a news story. The result of this is that the audience can no longer be asked to connect or interact via Facebook or Twitter to find out more, post a comment or ask a question.

Another example to consider is that earlier this Spring Twitter requested that one of its most used applications on Blackberry UberTwitter discontinue using the brand name Twitter in their brand name because of trademark infringement and privacy concerns. UberTwitter was quickly renamed to UberSocial and relaunched within days with new positioning that it is a broadened social communication tool.

Both of these situations occurred from the genericizing of trademarked brand names and their use as colloquial or generic descriptions but they also represent two very different perspectives of thought on what a mention is worth and if it is a recommendation. The CSA is asking broadcasters not use the trademarks Twitter and Facebook so they will not provide a preference to any one social media brand or provide an opportunity for recommending a brand or free advertizing through earned media and word of mouth. Twitter chose protecting its trademark and branding and sacrificed the potential of increasing brand awareness, earned media and word of mouth by having their brand name removed from the UberTwitter product name.

In our Ogilvy Chat Threads study previewed yesterday in our blog post Social media is associated with sales increase a strong link between an increase in sales and the use of brand names in social media is made. This study produces evidence that “social media exposure – by itself and more broadly when combined with other types of media exposure such as out-of-home, PR or TV ads – is linked with 2-7x higher likelihood of consumption and actual spend increases for some QSR brands.” 1

It has become evident that we are not only influenced by traditional media and advertising campaigns that brands control but on a daily basis we make more and more purchasing decisions based on brand mentions and word of mouth generated by recommendations and references on friends, search engines and user generated content. With a brands careful attention and monitoring of the the use of their trademark a successful formula can be defined for all.

So when does the mention of a brand name constitute an ad or endorsement? Do we mention these brand names because we feel they are the superior brand and are recommending them or are we using the brand name because it has become generic term in our everyday vocabulary? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

1 New Ogilvy-Chat Threads 2011 Study Preview: Exposure to Social Media Associated With Sales Increase by Irfan Kamal