Tuesday, July 10

Kleenex (R) brand tissue

It seems as if the marketers of Kleenex(R) brand tissue are a bit worried, and rightly so.  One of the major downsides of really effective marketing is that the brand could become so well known and so much a part of people's lives that you could actually lose your brand.  Perhaps this is happening for Kleenex(R) brand tissue.

I was catching up on my industry reading over the weekend and saw a full page ad in AdAge from the brand, requesting that people always use a (R) and "brand tissue" when referring to the Kleenex(R) brand tissue brand of brand tissue.  Evidently, the ad is targeted to folks in our industry who may be using the trademark as part of their work.  The problem is that if the name "Kleenex" becomes so synonymous with the product, then the brand risks losing their trademark.  It really is a weird twist to marketing, and wholly unfair.

There are not a lot of examples in the world, but there are a few.  Kleenex(R) brand tissue is a classic, but I'm sure the folks at Campbell's(R) brand soup worry about this to some extent.  I know we spoke about it at great length on Tylenol(R) brand pain reliever.  And of course the encroachment of private label knock-offs don't help us either ... something I cover in my book.  It makes me crazy to see one "brand" copy the experience of another!  Get your own!  Of course, the more unique you can make your brand experience, then the harder it is for others to rip off.
It's just very interesting to see a brand make a direct appeal to other industry insiders, those of us who understand the issue quite well and now will be even that much more conscious in our use of trademarks.

I'm sure you can think of many more examples where this is an issue ... what's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President, Cohn & Wolfe North America
Author, The Experience Effect series
Professor, NYU


  1. Hi Jim,
    How about Band Aid? Or Coke, which is used as the generic for any cola drink in many parts of the country. The issue for me with the Kleenex work is it seems like an attempt to close the barn door after the cows have left. Even if their effort to the marketing industry is successful and we all use the circle R in every case (as we should) or stop using Kleenex in a generic context altogether, it doesn’t change the fact it entered the vernacular a long time ago. No amount of policing now can change that. A more effective use of their marketing money would be to build a unique brand experience, as you suggest. But of course, that is a much, much harder job to do.

  2. Band-Aid certainly ... we always worried about that one when I was at J&J. I've often wondered if Chevy worried about these things at any point. I'm sure Google does. Jim.