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What Does It Mean When Someone Says "It's A Household Name"?

Updated on September 1, 2015

Household Name vs. Generic

How many times have you heard someone say "It's a household name" ? What they mean is a product has reached near biblical notoriety. Just about anyone will know what is being talked about when a "household name" is mentioned.

How many times have you heard someone say "Get the brand name, it works better" or "I only get the brand name"? What they mean is they only trust and/or buy the "Big Name" brand of the product over the store brand. They want you to buy the brand name or better and may use a "household name" to describe what they want.Household named products have usually been around for generations and are believed to be the first of their type and/or the pinnacle of quality in their field.

People like celebrities can also become "household names" which means they have done something notable that a lot of people have heard of thus making them a brand of their own, a great spokesperson and even an expert. Sports icons like Yogi Berra and Michael Jordan are considered household names.

Household Names Defined

It is best to start by saying a "Household Name" is a very successful "Brand Name".

A "Brand Name" is a marketing tool that helps advertise a product. It is usually chosen after months of market research, psychographics, brainstorming, artistic insight & even test panels. Effective brand names combine important elements that will allow the product to be found by consumers in a competitive marketplace. Brand names insinuate the following elements: what the product is and/or what it does, who the product is for & why it's the best.

When a "brand name" has so effectively permeated it's targeted consumer marketplace and beyond that it is widely used and/or known and/or trusted by many different demographics it sometimes becomes a "Household Name".

Good examples of "household names" that people use interchangeably with their generic counterparts are:

++Coca-Cola- It is over 100 years old, used worldwide in even the most remote of regions and is loved and trusted by so many people that in virtually any language, it can simply be referred to as "Coke". In some regions in the U.S. any soda will be referred to as a "Coke". Someone in these regions might simply ask "What kind of "coke" do you want?" when they are referring to a fountain drink.

++Band-Aid- Plasters as they are known sometimes or adhesive bandages are interchangeably referred to as Band-Aids. "Tear the Band-Aid of quickly and it will hurt less!"

++Kleenex- Facial Tissues are commonly referred to as Kleenex. "Go get a Kleenex!"

++Tylenol- Aspirin and pain relievers are is commonly interchangeably referred to as Tylenol even when the pain reliever doesn't contain acetominophen like Tylenol does! "I need a Tylenol"

++Frisbee- anyone playing with a flying disk will call it a Frisbee.

++Neosporin- I guess Antibiotic Ointment is too long. Neosporin just shortens the process of identifying the product.

++Scotch Tape- Often interchangeably used to describe any clear tape in a plastic dispenser.

Becoming a household name is the elusive hallmark of ultimate success for any product's advertising campaign!


Generic Names Defined

"Generic"products can be recognized by their name (or lack thereof) and toned down packaging. Often limited to describing themselves by the chemical components they are made of or simply what they are used for, generic products rarely become a household name. For instance, a shopper seeking generic antacids should look for a product called "acid reducer" or even "Calcium Bicarbonate" instead of their "brand name" counterparts which are "household names" like Tums or Alka-Seltzer.

Some reasons that many generic or "knock-off" products will never reach the status of their spendier brand-name counterparts could be:

+ They may not be consistently advertised outside of their parent company so products will have a different appearance from one retailer to the next.

+ Packaging may be less flashy or not work as well as the name brands. My friend swears the generic acid reducer he buys is harder to get out of the packaging than it's brand name twin. Whether real or perceived, it could be the thing that makes a consumer stick with their preferred "big name" brand.

+ Stigmas about generics being of a lesser quality due to their lesser cost. This is usually unsubstantiated and can save the consumer money without sacrificing quality.

Phone Cases On Zazzle are Generic Versions of Brand Name Counterparts
Phone Cases On Zazzle are Generic Versions of Brand Name Counterparts | Source

A Generic Mogul On Its Way To Becoming A Household Name

There are many companies that offer custom products online. Why do I consider Zazzle to be a successful Household Name in the making? In a twist of irony they have set their business model up to highlight generic products that can be customized by anyone. Some of the generic products they vend are designed to be customized and paired with "household names" like Apple and Kindle. They directly compete & complement the brand names they are designed to work symbiotically with which is further bolstered by trusted Big Names like Hallmark & Marvel who have their own stores with custom items lending credibility to the Zazzle name.

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    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 5 years ago

      Nice idea, a way to understand a term so common, it's a household name.

    • orange3 lm profile image

      orange3 lm 5 years ago

      I had never really thought about it but you do hear people say it a lot. Fun lens :)