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In normal conversation, people talking about a product don't specify the brand unless they need to.
People in commercials are not using normal conversation. When they talk, they are trying to sell the product, and they give the specific, trademarked
name every time; not only that, but it will be the full name, without any of the abbreviations that ordinary people use when they talk about that brand. This breaks the "conversational" tone most commercials shoot for, and it invariably sounds forced and uncomfortable.
The trope name is based off a song from a Band-Aid commercial that illustrates how awkward and unnatural this trope makes speech sound. Originally, the lyrics were "I am stuck on Band-Aid, 'cause a Band-Aid's stuck on me!" But the higher-ups wanted
to prevent "Band-Aid" from becoming a generic word
, so they added the "Brand", breaking the meter of the jingle
. Unsurprisingly, this awkward redaction failed, and "band-aid" has become a genericized trademark for an adhesive bandage, at least in the United States.
Characters speaking like this on (non-commercial) TV and radio programs is a sure sign of Product Placement
This is also seen in any suggested recipes printed on a product; not only will the recipe call for that specific product by brand name (even if it's a basic staple like salt or flour), but any other ingredients which might be manufactured or distributed by that company will also be mentioned by specific brand. It is also common for the directions on the back of shampoos to recommend a specific conditioner from the same brand.
The real reason they do this? If a particular brand name becomes synonymous with the product it identifies, the company that makes it is in danger of a Brand Name Takeover
, and they don't like that. You'll also notice that many of these products shun being called the generic product they're associated with: Miracle Whip isn't mayo note
, Dove isn't soap, Polaner All-Fruit isn't jelly...
For similar brand-name awkwardness, see Disney Owns This Trope
and Trope Co. Trope of the Week
. Contrast Tradesnark™
, where the awkwardness is pointed out and/or played for humor.
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Films — Live-Action
- One particularly jarring example in the movie Cabin Fever; on their way to the title cabin, James De Bello's character says he left his "Mott's apple juice" back at the general store. Much like the cowbell in Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear The Reaper", once you notice it, you can't un-notice it.
- A Lampshaded In-Universe example: In The Truman Show, the unwitting protagonist of the eponymous Show Within a Show further suspects the supposed reality he is living in when in the midst of a heated argument with his wife, she begins speaking in unnatural nonsequitur ad-speak, as characters on the show are obligated to do brief spiels accompanying product-placement.
- The Paranoia Tabletop RPG has this in universe, with B3. Officially, you are required to refer to "Bouncy Bubble Beverage Tee Emm Brand Beverage". Even in termination-happy Alpha Complex, shortening that is normal.
- Parodied in Clerks: The Animated Series:
Mary, Mother of God! I cut my hand on a rubber band! Do you sell Band-Aids? Randal Graves:
Band-Aids is a brand name. The proper term is adhesive strips. Dante Hicks:
The man is bleeding to death and you're getting into a semantics argument? Randal Graves:
Man, name brand word association is one of the more subtle threats to this nation's free trade. It gives the larger, well-known companies an unfair advantage. I'm doing my part to keep the playing field level by weaning people off referring to generic products with brand names. Dante Hicks:
Way to show some backbone. Randal Graves: No spine of Jell-O here
, my friend. Injured Customer:
So do you sell adhesive strips or what? Randal Graves
- Which is even funnier because it's not correct. They're "adhesive bandages", not "adhesive strips". An adhesive strip would just be a piece of tape.
- Parodied in Invader Zim. You remember how your elementary school fundraiser had those cheesy prizes for selling x products? Well, in Zim's one prize is apparently a box of adhesive medical strips. It's not only dubbed over in an instructional video; it's dubbed over in an actual conversation.
- Played in South Park. The Sega Dreamcast and Nintendo Wii have both appeared on episodes. Each console was mentioned repeatedly with its manufacturer's name, where a normal person would just say "Dreamcast" or "Wii".
- Lampshaded in The Simpsons, episode "A Tale of Two Springfields", in which Bart and friends repeatedly refer to a Frisbee (still a registered trademark of Wham-O) as a "novelty flying disc."
- Another time Bart lamented finding Otto in a dumpster, whereupon he corrected him. "Dumpster brand trash bins are top of the LINE! This is just a Trash Co waste disposal unit." There really is such a brand (or was).
- Spongebob Squarepants has played with a "small plastic disk that you throw". Looking for a less unwieldy name, they come up with a "small plastic disk that you toss".
- This was played with in an episode of The Fairly OddParents where a gelatin dish was always referred to as "Gelatin brand gelatin", referencing Jell-O's Brand Name Takeover for gelatin desserts.
- Part of a running Expospeak Gag in Portal. Aperture Science tends to give everything they produce a convoluted title preceded by their own name, which culminates in this:
- Americans (and Britons) seem to be under the impression that Speedo is the name of the style of men's undergarments/swimming clothes that basically cover the genitals, buttocks and little else. Speedo is the name of the Australian company that makes such items of swimwear. We call the items "bathers", "undies" or "Budgie smugglers". "Budgie Smuggler" is the dirtier one, and slightly offensive to some people. It comes from the fact that, wearing one, it looks like you're smuggling a small bird in your underwear.
- Although Onesies is a trademark of Gerber, it has become a generic term (at least, in America) for the little shirt-thingies worn by babies. Gerber was/is not pleased.
Computer and Electronic Products
- Adobe tried to curtail the use of the Photoshop trademark as a verb, by sending out a press release saying, basically, you can't do that. Instead of "Photoshopping", they wanted you to say, "I edited the picture in Adobe® Photoshop® software." (Adding "version 7.0" at the end is optional.) Naturally, everybody MUST care. This is the page with their trademark guidelines — with examples!
- Always capitalize and use trademarks in their correct form.
CORRECT: The image was enhanced with Adobe® Photoshop® Elements software.
INCORRECT: The image was photoshopped.
INCORRECT: The image was Photoshopped.
INCORRECT: The image was Adobe® Photoshopped.
- A lot of people now use "photochopped" or "photoshooped". (Uh-uh. You can't name it confusingly similar.)
- Finally all the way down to "shopped", because who has time to type 3 syllables.
- The part about Adobe® AIR® took it to dangerous levels: You can't use "AIR" anywhere in the title of your application, your company/trade dba name, your domain name, in your service name, or if it is related to Adobe® AIR® software (unless, of course, you're Adobe.)
- See also "Googling", meaning "Look up on a search engine, Google or not."
- Honestly, though, who the hell uses anything but Google® Brand Search Engine?
- Parodied savagely by Google during 2010 April Fools.
- Parodying themselves as well, as older Google blog posts also had this lecture.
- New Scientist magazine, as it's in print, had to get around this, so every time they refer to Google they say "a famous web search engine" or "FWSE" for short.
- "Google it with Bing". Even Microsoft employees aren't afraid to use this joke in public (in mild rebellion against the company line to, of course, promote Bing for searching...er, decisioning where possible). No doubt Microsoft would be overjoyed if people started talking about "binging" things (when pronounced properly, of course).
- On the new Hawaii Five-0, they did, in fact, "bing" something. On a cell phone.
- Commercials for Helio mobile products go so far as to have people come to blows or suffer a Karmic Death if they dare refer to their devices as a "phone". One of those commercials also had a Discriminate and Switch when the daughter brings home a man of a different race and doesn't care about the very offensive things her parents say, but she does get upset over their calling his Helio a phone.
- Odd inversion: Apple, Microsoft, and various other companies are all (for different reasons) actively trying to associate the term "PC" with "a desktop computer that's not made by Apple". The truth is that "PC" stands for "Personal Computer" and can thus refer to all desktop computers intended for personal use, including Macintoshes. Non-Apple computers usually run Windows, but don't have to, so it's been hard to put any particular branding on them. And the fact that Apple now manufactures computers that can boot in Windows makes things even more confusing.
- Of course, it just gets worse when people try to use "computer" as a generic word to refer to both Apple-made computers and "other" computers, not realizing that they're stepping back to a much broader level than they anticipate.
- Then there's Linux, which runs on PCs, Macs, Suns, or, according to Internet legend, dead badgers. There's no such thing as a "Linux" computer.
- And this use of "PC" to refer to a specific platform is something of a holdover from when most computers based on Intel x86 architecture (on which MSDOS and Windows were designed to run) were properly called "IBM PC-Compatible".
- Originally IB Ms ran PC-DOS. The name was owned by IBM, but Microsoft could sell it to other companies, which it did as "MS-DOS." In the early days "PC-Compatible" meant it should run PC-DOS software, but the emulation wasn't always perfect.
- Back in the 1980s (when IBM-type PCs were relatively common as home computers but by no means the ubiquitous choice they later became) people would often refer to one as "an IBM-compatible".
- Besides, the current Mac is effectively a PC with some architecture changes; that explains the success of the "hackintosh" versions of Mac OS X (running it on non-Apple hardware).
- Making a photocopy of something will often be called "xeroxing" it in the popular lexicon. Xerox is but only one company that makes photocopiers. Every few years, Xerox Corp. runs campaigns to clarify that Xerox is not a verb.
Health & Beauty Products
- Adding unspeakable insult to injury, the original trope-naming "Stuck On Me" Band-Aid without Brand commercial had even earned a Clio Award (comparable to an Oscar in the advertising world), including a shared credit for the song's composer Barry Manilow, who is (inadvertently) the Trope Maker.
- In Britain, "plaster" (Band-Aid) is used. However, "plaster" isn't a brand name in itself (the closest to "plaster" is the brand Elastoplast).
- In Germany the Leukoplast brand came close to becoming a generic term, in the post-war years one of the small little vehicles produced in the era (a sort of cross between a scooter and a car) was nicknamed "Leukoplastbomber" because you would do small repairs on it with plaster.
- If you're having a heart attack or think you might be having one, be sure the aspirin you take is Bayer brand aspirin. Presumably aspirin from any other brand will kill you.
- This only applies in the US, UK, and France, where Bayer lost the trademark on "Aspirin" after World War I. In the rest of the world the generic name is "acetylsalicylic acid".
- Or, in Poland, "*pirin". There's "Polopirin", "Etopirin", "Coffepirin" (with caffeine; basically Excedrin without the Tylenol—er, acetominophen) and "Calcipirin" (with Calcium, apparently for cold).
- Or, in Russia, it is simply aspirin, since the old Soviet command economy didn't care about capitalist laws and customs and just produced aspirin without asking permission.
- This got weird when they started running Western commercials about Bayer aspirin, referring to it as just "aspirin". Most people were trying to figure out what's so good about this aspirin, when they've been getting theirs from the drug store for years and it works just fine.
- One of the Aussie brand shampoos has the typical "we recommend following with Aussie <enter variety here> Conditioner" in its directions, but then adds "but we would say that, wouldn't we?" to it.
- There is a habit, especially in urban communities, of calling all diapers "Pampers".
- DC Comics and Marvel Comics famously hold a joint trademark on the terms "Super Hero" and "SUPER HEROES"™ , so that in practice no other facilities are allowed to use the term to advertise (or similarly title their products) in related situations. Legally, they own bupkis except lawyers. They "bought" the word from Mego Toys. But they're both so sue-happy that no-one dares (or can afford to) challenge them.
- The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) would like to remind you that Academy Award® and Oscar® are both registered trademarks. Although you can hear someone thanking "The Academy" for an award, they never say what academy or call it an "Academy Award", unless the AMPAS has given permission.
- In Japanese, single panel comic strips were, and in some places still are, known as "Panchi-e" ("Punch-pictures") after the famous British humor magazine Punch, which introduced that style of comics to the nation through imports, and later a local edition for the English expat community, during the Meiji era.
- If you like association football (soccer in the US), please be reminded that there isn't a world championship. You have to call it the FIFA World Cup™.
- "The Super Bowl is a registered trademark of the National Football League. Any rebroadcast, retransmission, or other use of this term without the express written consent of the NFL is prohibited." Which is why advertisers who want to hawk Super Bowl-related products without actually paying the NFL for the right to use the words will often euphemistically refer to something like "the big game," or "getting ready for Sunday," and trust the listener to connect the dots. And any organization or business that wants to host a Super Bowl party had better not call it a Super Bowl party unless they want the pants sued off them, even if it's a free event hosted by a non-profit organization like a local community church.
- To show that corporate greed knows no bounds, the NFL actually tried to trademark "The Big Game" in 2006 but withdrew the application a year later, mainly due to opposition from Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley, as their football teams have competed in the annual "Big Game" since 1892.
- American sports fans often refer to the semifinals of any championship tournament as the Final Four, thanks to the high popularity of college basketball. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is quite firm about reminding fans, media outlets, and advertisers that Final Four® is a registered trademark in the United States, and may ONLY be used (with permission) to refer to the semi-finals of the NCAA's own postseason championship tournaments.
- Also in relation to the NCAA's championship tournaments, the terms Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight are likewise trademarked in the United States, but not solely by the NCAA. Elite Eight® is jointly owned by the NCAA and the Illinois High School Association. Sweet Sixteen® is owned by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association for its championships, and it licenses the term to the NCAA. Officially neither term can be used for any other tournament or competition in the United States. Unofficially, sports fans still make generic use of both terms, though not nearly to the extent that they do with Final Four.
- The NCAA, in recent years, has also been insistent in calling its players "student-athletes", regardless of what a consistent stream of recruiting violations and bankrupt ex-pros might imply.
Toys & Video Game Products
- LEGO would like to remind you that "LEGO" must always be capitalized and works only as an adjective for their products, e.g. "LEGO bricks." An individual block is not "a Lego." The tiny LEGO people are called minifig or minifigures. They also are quite intent on 'Lego System' being used for the plural rather than 'Legos'.
- This seems to be more of an American thing that doesn't get used so much in the UK. However, in Germany it's common to call them Legos (though the probably company-approved Legosteine - LEGO bricks - is in use as well)
- Video game companies deal with this trope all the time, as the most popular system often becomes a synonym for video gaming itself. It's still common to hear people say that they are or "playing Nintendo" even though Nintendo obviously has more than one system.
- Ad copy guidelines dictate that the full name of the PS3 is "PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system" and the Xbox 360 is "Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft." It leads to some unwieldy marketing sentences.
- This even seeps into the games themselves sometimes. In Metal Gear Solid 4 and the documentary extras for the Uncharted series, when somebody says 'Playstation 3' the subtitles always say 'Playstation 3 system'.
- Transformers brand action figures from Hasbro don't transform; they convert. Seriously. There is an official edict from Hasbro regarding printed materials; toy packaging, advertising materials, etc. Transformers-brand action figures from Hasbro "convert" or "morph" or "change" between forms. Why, if the mere act of converting from one form to another was all it took to be a "transformer," then by gum, the term would become meaningless and applicable to any old space fantasy robot that can change between multiple configurations!
- Truer than you think. If "Transformer" becomes a word like "xerox," trying to keep the name their own could become legally problematic. The last thing they (and fans too, actually) want is brand x TRANSFORMER robots to be something anyone can make and market. It has happened before.
- For a while, Americans would generally refer to any cheat device as a Gameshark, unless they specifically meant a Game Genie. Later, that vanished, with AR (for Action Replay) being the new generic term. Gameshark has roots in the more general use of the term "shark" to refer to cheaters (card shark, etc), but AR was pure genericization.
- Intel's latest campaign is particularly egregious: Intel employees are talking about "Intel [X]" products.
- UK Game Shows will ALWAYS refer to the PS3 or Xbox 360 they're offering as a prize as "a games console" even though nobody in the UK will ever use that term. Especially odd given that it's Product Placement and you'd expect them to spell out the name of the product.
- The BBC aren't allowed to advertise, so they have to avoid brand names wherever possible. Other channels will only advertise when they're specifically being paid to do so — if they set up the competition themselves rather than being given the prize by the makers as a marketing exercise, it won't be named. Something of an internal Running Gag is quickly parroting the Our Lawyers Advised This Trope addendum phrase "Other brands are available!" if a presenter accidentally mentions a specific brand.
- Also overt product placement was technically illegal on British-made TV in general until Ofcom (the regulatory body) relaxed the rules somewhat in 2011, meaning even if it was a paid for plug naming the product directly could land the program makers in trouble.
- At least a few years ago, every single fashion doll was a Barbie doll, regardless of whether or not it was made by Mattel. Just so long as it could wear the same clothes as a Barbie, it was a Barbie.
- The Sony PlayStation would often be referred to as the "PlayStation Game Console" in commercials for their games.
- Federal Express changed its name to FedEx, and even stated in the commercial that announced the change that it was because "that's what you call us anyway".
- If asked if a customer can "Mail" a package, FedEx and UPS will say that they don't "Mail", but you can "Ship" your package. You can only send "Mail" through the United States Postal Service.
- Not really a branding issue; US law prohibits anyone from competing with the Postal Service to provide mail delivery, because otherwise the USPS would be out of business. FedEx and UPS have to pretend to be in the totally different business of express parcel delivery.
- The word "cellophane" — or more precisely, the name "Du Pont Cellophane" — was also a trade-name. Genericized trademarks are the reason why every few years the Xerox Corporation will come out with ads reminding us that "There Are Two Rs in Xerox" (the second being, of course, the ®).
- Eastman Kodak's efforts in the early part of the 20th century to popularize its product name, with such slogans as "Take a Kodak with you", were very nearly too successful: by the 1920s people were using "kodak", with no capital, as a synonym for "snapshot". (A character in Sinclair Lewis's 1937 novel It Can't Happen Here puts "a kodak album" in her suitcase.) The company had to move swiftly, with the advertising slogan "If it isn't an Eastman, it isn't a Kodak!"
- 1920s? There's at least one usage of "Kodak" in this context (albeit with the capital) from 1893, in Gilbert and Sullivan's Utopia Limited. Granted, it may just be to fit the meter of the song, but still.
- And, of course, when Paul Simon wrote and recorded the song "Kodachrome" in 1975, the record labels and album covers were careful to point out that "Kodachrome® is a registered trademark for colored film."
- The song "Give Me Everything" has the lines "Me not working hard?/ Yeah, right! Picture that with a Kodak/ Or, better yet, go to Times Square/ Take a picture of me with a Kodak."
- The National Association of Realtors takes pains to inform people that the term "Realtor" is trademarked in the United States and should only be used for real estate agents who belong to that organization. They seem to be fighting a losing battle against Brand Name Takeover, however, especially in light of the fact that "realtor" is the generic English term for someone who handles realty, and "real estate agent" is hard to fit on a business card.
- Their radio ad suffers from a bit of grammar trouble that may lead to some confusion, saying "Only Realtors are members of The National Association of Realtors." What they meant was "Only members of The National Association of Realtors can call themselves Realtors." What they said was, "No one in The National Association of Realtors is not a realtor."
- People typically refer to plastic wrap/cling film as "Saran wrap," even when the person they're talking to refers to it in the proper generic.
- Similarly, in Australia, many people refer to it as "Glad wrap".
- But not in the UK, where it's generally known by the generic term "cling film".
- Stun guns are almost always sometimes called "Tasers", even though Taser is a brand of stun gun produced by Taser International. Justified in that Taser is one of the only stun guns manufactured.
- The New York City Subway has trademarked some, but not all of its lettered train services and, of course, all of the circular route bullets seen on signs and merchandise. This has the effect of preventing other transit agencies from labeling their services in a similar manner so, for example, you will only ever ride an F Train Brand Train in New York City.
- Sellotape in the UK and Scotch tape in North America, to the point where the BBC have finally ruled that Blue Peter presenters no longer have to call the former "sticky tape" on-air.
- In Germany it's Tesafilm.
- In Brazil? Durex.
- What do you call that folding pocket knife with the different blades and tools and the tiny tweezers and the plastic toothpick that always gets lost? Swiss Army Knives? Only if it's made by Victorinox or Wenger, the two companies that actually have a contract to sell folding pocket knives to the Swiss Army. Their Army of Lawyers has been known to go after any other company selling similar knives by that name. Swiss style pocket knives are OK though.
- Many people refer to those big metal garbage bins you see out back of supermarkets, fast food restaurants, and the like as "dumpsters"; thing is, though, that was originally a trademarked name, dating back to about 1936. Yeah, we've been calling 'em that for a while...
- Tarmac, that black stuff on the surface of runways, helipads, and the like, is actually a trademarked term.