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Wanna Buy a Verb?
By: Ted Curtin
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It’s now the ultimate status symbol in the world of online brands. Revenues that exceed the GDP of many nations are a nice start. Global influence measured in millions of users is certainly impressive. Cross-platform adaptation that transcends various operating systems is valuable. But the ultimate sign that an online brand has arrived is when your brand becomes, not just a household name, but a Verb!

As demonstrated this week by Microsoft’s announcement that it has agreed to buy Skype for $8.5 billion, there’s tremendous value in owning a verb. The increasingly popular online phone service boasts over 633 million around the globe and commands an impressive 13% share of all international calls according to Inquisitr.com
According to the New York Times, Microsoft’s chief executive, Steve Ballmer, referenced Skype’s status as a Verb – clearly (and publicly) envious of the status of their larger nemesis – Google’s status as not just an enormously successful brand, but as a verb itself. It’s not his first attempt either. In 2009 When Ballmer rebranded Windows’ “Live Search” as Bing, the hope was for Bing to catch on and rise to the household status of a commonly used verb.

We see it more and more with brands used colloquially as verbs. There’s a very good chance you’ve already “Googled” something today. You might IM your co-worker about a conference call later, or perhaps you LinkedIn with someone you met at a business dinner last night. I know I’ll probably tweet a link to this article, and who knows, some of you may decide to Digg it. Certainly Microsoft is hoping we all decide to Skype our friends and family in far off places rather than just give them a call.

There was a time when the verb status was a sure sign that your brand was headed into a state of Purgatory, where everyone used your name, even for your competitors’ products, and differentiation was a challenge fought by marketers and lawyers alike. You saw it with brands like Xerox, Band-Aid, and even the Rollerblade brand, whose novel 1980s inline revival to roller-skating protected their brand from the sport itself.

Some people think that Skype was a foolish purchase on Microsoft’s part. Certainly Wall Street didn’t think so, as the Dow and NASDAQ responded favorably to the news. Only time will tell if there is $8.5 Billion worth of value to Microsoft in the deal, but you can bet that the legacy and VOIP phone services are all paying very close attention.

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About the Author
Ted Curtin is a recognized strategic marketing leader with over 22 years experience covering online and offline marketing channels. Follow him on Twitter or at TedCurtin.com
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