Brand verbs: brand synonymity and brand leadership

  • Siva M. Kumar
  • K. R. Jayasimha
Original Article


Brand names have become verbs and entered in the consumer vocabulary, as doing words that are synonymous to consumer actions. Synonymity brands are observed to be prototypical and consumer-perceived brand leaders by planting a word not only in the consumer minds, but also in the lexicon. Corporate attorneys have ignored this fact by labeling such words as potential candidates to brand genericide and projected risk of trademark loss. The 3-part study aims to explore the concept, define brand synonymity, identify the dimensions, and measure the degree of synonymity—in the first part. The second study empirically tests the relationship between brand synonymity and leadership. The study three brings practical use to address the legal concerns by outlining a continuum to plot brands in safe and risk zones, thereby segregating the marketing play (in safe zone) and attorney’s role (in risk zone). The findings show synonymity brands scoring high in four vital brand dimensions and demonstrate positive relationship with brand leadership. The authors explore this new area of brand research that is not adequately covered by extant literature, to benefit marketing scholars, brand managers, and legal attorneys.


Brand verbs Brand synonymity Prototypicality Word of mouth Speech-act verbs Consumer-perceived brand leadership 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


  1. Aaker, D.A. 2011. Brand Relevance. San Francisco: Wiley. Accessed 31 May 2015.
  2. Aaker, D.A., and K.L. Keller. 1990. Consumer Evaluations of Brand Extensions. Journal of Marketing 54(January): 27–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aaker, J., S. Fournier, and S.A. Brasel. 2004. When Good Brands Do Bad. Journal of Consumer Research 31(1): 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aaker, J.L. 1997. Dimensions of Brand Personality. Journal of Marketing Research XXXIV: 347–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ahothali, A., and J. Hoey. 2015. Good News or Bad News: Using Affect Control Theory to Analyze Reader’s Reaction Towards News Articles. In The 2015 Annual Conference of North American chapter of the ACL. Association for Computational Linguistics, 1548–1558. Accessed 4 June 2017.
  6. Aristotle, and J.L. Ackrill (trans). 1975. Aristotle Categories and De Interpretatione. Reprint ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  7. Athey, S., and A. Schmutzler. 2001. Investment and Market Dominance. RAND Journal of Economics 32(1): 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Austin, J. 1962. How to Do Things with Words. 1st ed. London: Oxford University Press. Scholar
  9. Balz, J. 2011. The Search Is On: Googling “Barack Obama” and “Hillary Clinton” in the 2008 Democratic Primary. Journal of Political Marketing 10(1–2): 139–164. Scholar
  10. Barley, S.R., and P.S. Tolbert. 1997. Institutionalization and Structuration: Studying the Links Between Action and Institution. Organization Studies 18(1): 93–117. Scholar
  11. Batra, R., A. Ahuvia, and R.P. Bagozzi. 2012. Brand Love. Journal of Marketing 76(March): 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Baur, D.G., and T. Dimpfl. 2016. Googling Gold and Mining Bad News. Resources Policy 50: 306–311. Scholar
  13. Berger, J., and E.M. Schwartz. 2011. What Drives Immediate and Ongoing Word of Mouth? Journal of Marketing Research 48(5): 869–880. Scholar
  14. Borcan, O., M. Lindahl, and A. Mitrut. 2014. The Impact of an Unexpected Wage Cut on Corruption: Evidence from a “Xeroxed” Exam. Journal of Public Economics 120: 32–47. Scholar
  15. Boxer, D., and A.D. Cohen. 2004. Assessing Speech Acts in a Second Language. In Studying Speaking to Inform Second Language Learning, 302–327. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
  16. Bristow, D.N., K.C. Schneider, and D.K. Schuler. 2002. The Brand Dependence Scale: Measuring Consumers’ Use of Brand Name to Differentiate Among Product Alternatives. Journal of Product & Brand Management II(6): 343–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Business Week. 1983. Personal Computers: And the Winner is IBM Business Week 76.Google Scholar
  18. Bughin, J., J. Doogan, and O.J. Vetvik. 2010. A new way to measure word-of-mouth marketing. McKinsey Quarterly April(2), pp. 1–9. Available at:
  19. Campbell, D.T., and J.C. Standley. 1963. Experimental and Quasi Experimental Designs For Research. In Experimental and Quasi Experimental Designs, 38. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.Google Scholar
  20. Carpenter, G.S., and K. Nakamoto. 1996. Impact of Consumer Preference Formation on Marketing Objectives & Competitive Second Mover Strategies. Journal of Consumer Psychology 5(4): 325–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Carroll, B.A., and A.C. Ahuvia. 2006. Some Antecedents and Outcomes of Brand Love. Marketing Letters 17(2): 79–89. Scholar
  22. Carson, S.J., R.D. Jewell, and C. Joiner. 2007. Prototypicality Advantages for Pioneers Over Me-Too Brands: The Role of Evolving Product Designs. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 35(2): 172–183. Scholar
  23. Chang, Y., and Y.J. Ko. 2013. The Brand Leadership: Scale Development and Validation. Journal of Brand Management 21(1): 63–80. Scholar
  24. Conti, G. 2008. Could Googling Take Down a President? Communications of the ACM 51(1): 71. Scholar
  25. Costello, A.B., and J.W. Osborne. 2005. Best Practices in Exploratory Factor Analysis: Four Recommendations for Getting the Most from Your Analysis. Practical Assessment, Research & Education 10: 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dawson, J.F. 2014. Moderation in Management Research: What, Why, When, and How. Journal of Business and Psychology 29(1): 1–19. Scholar
  27. DBAPE, R.K. 2013. American Database of Proprietary Eponyms, DBAPE. Available at: Accessed 8 May 2017.
  28. Douglas, R. 1999. Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, Then Ignored, the First Personal Computer. San Jose: ToExcel.Google Scholar
  29. Epitropaki, O., and R. Martin. 2004. Implicit Leadership Theories in Applied Settings: Factor Structure, Generalizability, and Stability Over Time. The Journal of Applied Psychology 89(2): 293–310. Scholar
  30. Ford, R., and H. Ray. 2004. Googling for Gold. Network Security 1: 10–13. Scholar
  31. Fornell, C., and D.F. Larcker. 1981. Evaluating Structural Equation Models with Unobservable Variables and Measurement Error. Journal of Marketing Research 18(1): 39. Scholar
  32. Fournier, S. 1998. Consumers and Their Brands: Developing Relationship Theory in Consumer Research. Journal of Consumer Research 24(4): 343–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Geroski, P., and T. Vlassopoulos. 1991. The Rise and Fall of a Market Leader: Frozen Foods in the UK. Strategic Management Journal 12(6): 467–478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gilmore, G.W. 1919. Animism: Or, Thought Currents of Primitive Peoples, 68. Boston: Marshall Jones Company.Google Scholar
  35. Gray, P. 2011. Google, Smarts, and “Heroes”. Information Systems Management 28(2): 180–183. Scholar
  36. Hair, J.F., et al. 2010. Multivariate Data Analysis. Vectors. 7th ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall. Scholar
  37. Hennessey, J.E., T.S. Bell, and R.J. Kwortnik. 2005. Lexical Interference in Semantic Processing of Simple Words: Implications for Brand Names. Psychology and Marketing 22(1): 51–69. Scholar
  38. Hu, L., and P.M. Bentler. 1998. Fit Indices in Covariance Structure Modeling: Sensitivity to Underparameterized Model Misspecification. Psychological Methods 3(4): 424–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. IBM. 1981. The birth of the IBM PC, IBM. Accessed 9 Feb 2014.
  40. Jarvis, C.B., S.B. MacKenzie, and P.M. Podsakoff. 2003. A Critical Review of Construct Indicators and Measurement Model Misspecification in Marketing and Consumer Research. Journal of Consumer Research 30(2): 199–218. Scholar
  41. Jordan, D. 2017. Global ad spend to hit $ 563.4 billion in 2017 with digital driving growth. London. Available at: Accessed 2 Oct 2017.
  42. Kachersky, L., and M. Carnevale. 2015. Effects of Pronoun Brand Name Perspective and Positioning On Brand Attitude. Journal of Product & Brand Management 24(2): 157–164. Scholar
  43. Kalafatis, S.P., and C. Blankson. 2004. The Development and Validation of a Scale Measuring Consumer. Customer-Derived Generic Typology of Positioning Strategies. Journal of Marketing Management 20(516): 5–43.Google Scholar
  44. Kalamas, M., et al. 2006. The Critical Role of Congruency in Prototypical Brand Extensions. Journal of Strategic Marketing 14(3): 193–210. Scholar
  45. Kasper, G., and K.R. Rose. 2002. Pragmatic Development in a Second Language (Language Learning Monograph Series). Oxford: Blackwell. Scholar
  46. Kathy Benjamin. 2017. 11 Eponymous Brands and the People Behind Them|Mental Floss, Accessed 27 May 2017.
  47. Kenney, R.A., J. Blascovich, and P.R. Shaver. 1994. Implicit Leadership Theories: Prototypes for New Leaders. Basic and Applied Social Psychology 15(4): 409–437. Scholar
  48. Knapp, D.E. 2008. The Brand Promise: How Costco, Ketel One, Make-a-wish, Tourism Vancouver, and other leading brands make and keep the promise that guarantees success. 1st ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.Google Scholar
  49. Lad, M. 2009. Jockey Urges Consumers to “Start Jockeying”. Advertising India 2–4.,jockey-urges-consumers-to-start-jockeying.aspx. Accessed 27 Dec 2014.
  50. Landwehr, J.R., and S. Gallen. 2010. The Influence of Prototypicality and Level of Exposure on Consumers’ Responses to Product Designs: Field Evidence from German Car Buyers. Advances in Consumer Research 37(1995): 682–683.Google Scholar
  51. Lange, F. 2005. Do Brands of a Feather Flock Together? Some Exploratory Findings on the Role of Individual Brands in Brand Constellation Choice. Journal of Consumer Behaviour 4(6): 465–479. Scholar
  52. Loken, B., L.W. Barsalou, and C. Joiner. 2008. Category Representation and Category-Based Inference. In Catagorization theory and research in consumer psychology, ed. Haugtvedt, C.P., Herr, P.M. and Kardes, F.R, 133–163. New York: Psychology Press.
  53. Look, B.C. 2007. Aristotle’s Categories. University of Kentucky. Accessed 4 June 2017.
  54. Lovett, M.J., R. Peres, and R. Shachar. 2013. On Brands and Word of Mouth. Journal of Marketing Research L(August 2013): 427–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Lowe, B., and F. Alpert. 2010. The Relative Influence of Pioneer and Follower Price on Reference Price and Value Perceptions. Journal of Product & Brand Management 19(7): 504–511. Scholar
  56. McConchie, A. 2015. Pop vs Soda vs Coke: Regional variations of the Terms in US Market, Alan McConchie. Accessed 14 May 2017.
  57. Munteanu, A., and D. Lupan. 2011. Economic Implications of Several Special Proper Nouns. Review of General Management, Spiru Haret University, Faculty of Management 13(1): 110–120.Google Scholar
  58. Myers, G.L. 2012. At-Risk Youths’ Perception of Prototypical Leadership through Language Based Impression Formulation. Northern Illinois University.Google Scholar
  59. Nedungadi, P., and J.W. Hutchinson. 1985. The Prototypicality of Brands: Relationships with Brand Awareness, Preference and Usage. Advances in Consumer Research 12: 498–503.Google Scholar
  60. Osgood, Charles, G.J. Suci, and Percy H. Tannenbaum. 1957. The Measurement of Meaning. Illinois: University of Illinois Press. Scholar
  61. Otubanjo, O. 2013. A Discourse Approach to Brand Leadership Management. International Journal of Marketing Studies 5(2): 131–137. Scholar
  62. Patterson, M., and L.O. Malley. 2006. Brands, Consumers and Relationships: A Review. Irish Marketing Review 18(1/2): 10–20.Google Scholar
  63. Pelc, K.J. 2013. Googling the WTO: What Search-Engine Data Tell Us About the Political Economy of Institutions. International Organization 67(3): 629–655. Scholar
  64. Phillips, N., T.B. Lawrence, and C. Hardy. 2004. Discourse and Institutions. Academy of Management Review 29(4): 635–652. Scholar
  65. Pradhan, D., and D. Agrawal. 2013. Mortein Vaporizer: What Lies Beneath Brand Positioning? Vikalpa: The Journal for Decision Makers 38(3): 141–150. Accessed 28 May 2017.
  66. Quintal, V., and I. Phau. 2013. Brand Leaders and Me-Too Alternatives: How Do Consumers Choose? Marketing Intelligence & Planning 31(4): 367–387. Scholar
  67. Quintal, V., and I. Phau. 2017. Do Consumers’ Purchase Intentions Differ for Prototypical and Me-Too Brands in the Banking Industry? In Developments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science, 361–369. Cham: Springer.
  68. Ratneshwar, S., et al. 2001. Goal-Derived Categories: The Role of Personal and Situational Goals in Category Representations. Journal of Consumer Psychology 10(3): 147–157. Scholar
  69. Ries, A., and J. Trout. 1986. Marketing Warfare. Journal of Consumer Marketing 3(4): 77–82. Scholar
  70. Ries, A., and J. Trout. 1994. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. London: Profile Books Limited. Scholar
  71. Riley, P. 1979. Towards a Contrastive Pragmalinguistics. Papers and Studies in Contrastive Linguistics. Scholar
  72. Robinson, D.T., L. Smith-Lovin, and A.K. Wisecup. 1979. Affect Control Theory. In Handbook of the Sociology of Emotions, 179–202.
  73. Romaniuk, J., and B. Sharp. 2000. Using Known Patterns in Image Data to Determine Brand Positioning. International Journal of Market Research 42(2): 219–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Rosch, E., B.B. Lloyd, and L. Erlbaum. 1978. Principles of Categorization, 1–25. Oakland: University of California.Google Scholar
  75. Rossolatos, G. 2013. Brand Equity Planning with Structuralist Rhetorical Semiotics: A Conceptual Framework. The Qualitative Report 18(45): 1–20.Google Scholar
  76. Ryan, C. 2016. When a Brand Becomes a Verb. Idealog 7. Accessed 2 Oct 2017.
  77. Schmitt, B. 1999. Experiential Marketing: How to Get Customers to Sense, Feel, Think, Act, and Relate to Your Company and Brands. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  78. Schmitt, B.H. 2003. Customer Experience Management: A revolutionary Approach to Connecting with Your Customers. New Jersey: Wiley.Google Scholar
  79. Shinde, E.N.B., and P.B.R. Borkar. 2015. Aristotle Works (trans: Ross W.D.). In Aristotle Categories, 2–47.Google Scholar
  80. Sutton, B.J. 2007. Market Share Dynamics and the “Persistence of Leadership” Debate. The American Economic Review 97(1): 222–241.Google Scholar
  81. Timpe, V. 2012. Strategic Decoding of Sociopragmatic Assessment Tasks—An Exploratory Think-Aloud Validation Study. Second Language Studies 30(2): 109–246.Google Scholar
  82. Uyeda, K.M., and G. Mandler. 1980. Prototypicality Norms for 28 Semantic Categories. Behavior Research Methods & Instrumentation 12(6): 587–595. Scholar
  83. Vaid, H. 2003. Branding: Brand Strategy, Design, and Implementation of Corporate and Product Identity. 1st ed. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications.Google Scholar
  84. Vaidhyanathan, Siva. 2011. The Googlization of Every-Thing: And Why We Should Worry. Los Angeles, Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  85. Van Overschelde, J.P., K.A. Rawson, and J. Dunlosky. 2004. Category Norms: An Updated and Expanded Version of the Battig and Montague (1969) Norms. Journal of Memory and Language 50(3): 289–335. Scholar
  86. Veryzer, Robert W., and J.W. Hutchinson. 1998. The Influence of Unity and Prototypicality on Aesthetic Responses to New Product Designs. Journal of Consumer Research 24: 374–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Ward, J., and B. Loken. 1990. Alternative Approaches to Understanding the Determinants of Typicality. Journal of Consumer Research 17(2): 111–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Wasko, M.M., and S. Faraj. 2005. Why Should I Share? Examining Social Capital and Knowledge Contribution in. MIS Quarterly 29(1): 35–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indian Institute of ManagementIndoreIndia
  2. 2.Augentia LLC

Personalised recommendations