Becoming A Verb

January 5th, 2016 by

Could your business join the likes of Google and Photoshop in the elite list of “verbified” brands?

The English language is anything but constant: rules of grammar change as the years pass and new words are invented as modern slang changes the way we speak. This year, for example, the Oxford English Dictionary has added hundreds of new entries, including autotune, hot mess and photobomb. And certain words’ functions can change – for instance, when a word that is usually a noun is used as a verb. Today we look at brand names that become verbified, and what this kind of word morphing could mean for your business.

Consider this sentence:

I am using the Google search engine to research how I can use YouTube’s online video database to watch videos about how to alter a digital image using the application Photoshop.

Look at how this has now changed to this:

I am Googling how to YouTube about Photoshopping.

The official technical term for this, when words that normally function as one part of speech are used as a different part of speech, is anthimeria. Anthimeria is the part of the evolution of any language, but when it happens to a company’s name, is it a good thing or a bad thing? Some would consider this the highest form of praise, saying that it is recognition that your brand is accepted above all others as the gold standard. Others argue that it leads to making your brand generic and that your company can lose some of the power behind the product that it has created.

The business world is no stranger to anthimeria. Words like value-add and ballparking are part of the lexicon of modern business jargon. But certain brand names, whether they like it or not, are subject to becoming verbified (technical term there). We don’t just text, we WhatsApp. We don’t tape packages for shipping, we Sellotape them. We don’t have a VoIP call, we Skype or FaceTime. These brands become household names for tasks that we do regularly.

The issue comes if your brand name is used to describe only some of what you do. Let’s say I own a plumbing company called WishWash. This fictional plumbing company does a whole range of plumbing services, the most well known of which is unclogging a blocked drain. You don’t unclog your drain, you WishWash your drain! However, over the years we have become so identified with this function that the rest of our business suffers. Consumers have forgotten that we have a full range of other plumbing services as well, and only use us to unclog drains.

Albeit a very specific example, this is one potential downfall of verbifying. For the most part, however, becoming a verb is viewed as a positive thing for your brand, a reflection that your brand is the first one that comes to mind when they want a certain task done. So what is the magic formula to make this happen? G.L. of The Economist says that in order for a brand to become effectively verbified, “the branded verb has to describe an action that’s both frequent and distinctive”. G.L. argues it cannot be an action that is too commonplace, yet it must be something that is done with some frequency so as to necessitate its use on a recurring basis. So using a computer will probably never become Microsofting or Appling, but many of us Facebook our friends on a regular basis.

Grammar and syntax traditionalists out there must acquiesce that despite their stalwartly preferences the English language changes ‘on the daily’. Businesses can take advantage of this trend to boost their brand’s visibility in the marketplace and make it into a household name. One way to do that is to get UK2ing with dedicated server hosting and website builder tools. Your ROIs will become synergistic when you utilise your deliverables, producing a value-added win-win with robust transparency for everyone. Literally.

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