Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Why Companies Don't Like You to Google and Xerox Things

Some products are so successful in the marketplace that their trademark is widely used as the generic name for all products of that type. Google is the most common of these. People often talk about "googling" things or say "let me google that for you". There are many others: Xerox has become a synonym for photocopy, Hoover for vacuum cleaning, Jet Ski for acquatic motorcycles, Frisbee for flying disks or Jeep for compact sport utility vehicles.

Outsiders often see this as a sign of success and wonder why the companies who own these trademarks are apparently unhappy about the situation and try to discourage the use of their trademarks as generic names. There is a good reason for this. In the US and some other jurisdictions you can lose your rights to a trademark if it becomes generic and if the owner has not made sufficient effort to stop this.

This is not paranoia. Many famous trademarks have been lost by their owners precisely for this reason. Aspirin used to be a registered trademark of Bayer but it was successfully challenged in the USA where it is now generic. The Otis elevator company registered "escalator" as a trademark but they failed to protect it and it too became generic. The same happened to cellophane, thermos, dry ice, heroin and even videotape -- originally a trademark of the company that invented videotaping, Ampex.

You can't stop consumers using "google" as a verb but what trademark owners can do is to ensure that they always use trademarks correctly in their own publications. Look carefully at everything published by companies and you will rarely find a trademark used as a common noun. Instead of "escalator" nowadays the company would write "Escalator brand moving staircase". It is precisely because Otis used escalator like elevator that they lost it. Most companies also try to educate media and publishers so that they also use the trademarks correctly.

No company can require you to say "escalator brand moving staircase" in conversation, nor can they require publications to do the same. What they can do is to create brand awareness campaigns so that they can demonstrate their efforts to protect the mark. If anyone ever challenges a trademark in court these efforts will be very important to prove that the owner of the trademark made every effort to avoid it being used as a generic name.

In spite of the downside risks many companies are actually thrilled when their brand becomes the generic name for a product. They just have to make sure that they do everything they can to protect the mark by training their own staff and by trying to convince media to use the name appropriately. And that explains why part of your training at many companies is about how you should use the company trademarks. They just want to avoid adding their name to the already long list of genericized trademarks.


Lectures, Workshops, Coaching & Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing on this and other communication topics you can reach me through my website http://andrewhennigan.com, by email at conseil@andrewhennigan.com or by phone at 0046 730 894 475 in Sweden and 0033 6 79 61 42 81 in France.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Why Politicians, Celebrities Should Beware of Touch Screens

After all his troubles with Twitter in the past, you might think that former US representative Anthony Weiner would be more careful, but he is in the news again for favoriting a tweet about sexting. According to the Slate article about this story, he claims that he did this by accident, touching the star symbol while scrolling the page.

This happens all too frequently when you are using apps on a touch screen device. Almost every day I inadvertently view someone's profile on LinkedIn while I am scrolling through updates one handed. I can easily imagine that someone could also like or favorite posts that they don't actually intend to endorse.

When my fingers slip on a touch screen the consequence are insignificant -- at most I leave someone wondering why I am suddenly interested in their profile -- but for politicians, celebrities and other high-profile social media personalities these mistakes are much more serious. As Anthony Weiner has found to his cost every slip on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or whatever will be seen by someone. Even if you quickly delete or reverse the action there is always someone quick enough to screen capture the evidence and post it on their blog. I have a collection myself of social media mishaps that were corrected in seconds but not fast enough to stop me capturing a permanent record.

So what should high-profile users do to avoid these problems? Here are five practical solutions:

AVOID TOUCH SCREEN DEVICES. To minimize the risk of accidents one approach is simply to use traditional mouse-and-keyboard computers as much as possible. This is awkward on the road but in the office there is no reason why you can't do this. Right now I am sitting with two laptops (one for typing; one for Spotify) and an iPhone. It's tempting but unnecessary for me to check social media on the phone.

USE TOUCH SCREENS CAREFULLY. When you are travelling and really have to use a phone or tablet then use them with great care. Use both hands and be careful where you place your finger to scroll the screen. Never try to scroll one handed while you are doing something else. Definitely never do it while you are driving for safety reasons.

CONSIDER APPS LIKE HOOTSUITE. Instead of using the Twitter, Facebook and other apps directly try using a single social-media management app like Hootsuite. With Hootsuite you can still select a post accidentally when you are trying to scroll but you need to click again to actually like or favorite a post, giving you a chance to hit cancel instead.

BE CAREFUL ABOUT WHO YOU FOLLOW. When you are in politics, sport or entertainment you should in any case be careful about which accounts you follow, but being especially careful in this area also reduces the chances that you accidentally like, favorite, repin or retweet something that will cause you embarrassment later. If you need to watch something controversial for information the best plan is to have a separate, anonymous account for this activity. You might, for example, want to be watching extremist party accounts to keep track of what they say, but you don't need to use your public account for that.

NEVER TWEET UNDER THE INFLUENCE. Using social media is like driving or piloting an airplane. If you are too drunk to drive you are too drunk to use Twitter or Facebook. After that first glass turn off the phone or tablet and leave it with the car keys in a safe place. It's easy enough to make an embarrassing mistake sober. Don't make it harder.

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Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about social media and other communication topics you can contact me through my website http://andrewhennigan.com, by email at conseil@andrewhennigan.com or by phone on 0046 730 894 475 in Sweden or 0033 6 79 61 42 81 in France.