Today’s Detroit News discusses the possibility that “iPad” could become a generic term used for tablet computers in a way similar to how “Kleenex” and “Band-Aid” are used to generally refer to facial tissues and bandages.
I believe that in order for such widespread brand “genericization” to occur, either a product has to be completely unique in the early stages of the product market or the brand must be so powerful at that time that it overshadows all competing brands.
Considering the strength of the Kindle brand, the iPad certainly has strong brand competition in the e-reader market. The iPad is more than an e-reader, of course, but it was initially perceived as an e-reader on steroids. The Kindle, on the other hand, is positioning itself as more than an e-reader, with Amazon heavily marketing the Kindle as an app tablet with an extremely efficient browser.
The Android market also puts some heavy product competition in the face of the iPad’s genericization. With the Android platform now far surpassing the sales of the iPhone platform, Android users have a certain level of brand loyalty to the platform, regardless of the device they use. Samsung is heavily marketing its Galaxy brand as one delivering high-quality devices across the smartphone and tablet markets. If they continue to have success in this campaign, Galaxy could easily become the third power-brand in the tablet market.
Another big challenge to the genericization of the iPad brand is the growing backlash against the so-called “elitism” of Apple’s users. Similar to the well-known perception issues around people who drive a Prius vehicle, iPhone/iPad advocates have created a culture war by slamming Android users as being second-class. This was illustrated recently in the press when Instagram released its app for the Android platform, unleashing a heavy volume of criticism from Apple users claiming that Android users will muck up the app with low-class content. As CNN stated, the release saw a “number of tweets suggesting, or downright saying, that Android phone users are in some way inferior to iPhone owners.”
The class war around the Apple brand vs. Android brand smartphone market surely impacts the tablet market, as people tend to own a smartphone before a tablet. This heavy brand competition so early in the lifecycle of this market seems destined to prevent the widespread usage of the name “iPad” to encompass all tablet computers.
Brand genericization certainly has its good and bad points, as the Detroit News article illustrates. It can make your brand a ubiquitous name, but can also give a boost to your competitors — a customer may be initially drawn in to the purchasing cycle by what you’ve spent on marketing your brand, and end up purchasing a competitor’s product due to better quality, services, availability or pricing. Regardless of the product or service you sell, it’s important to carefully protect your brand’s name, reputation and usage by researching and addressing both positive and negative reaction to your brand.