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Verbifying Your Business Through Corporate Blogging

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There is perhaps one aspect of linguistics that could prove important to every blog content writer from now until the end of time. It’s called verbification.

As a professional offering business blogging services, I can see that verbification might be viewed as negative when it comes to company branding and corporate identity. For Bayer Pharmaceuticals, this couldn’t have been more true. In 1921, Bayer lost Aspirin as a U.S. Trademark. The result? Thereafter, the name aspirin became the common term people used to refer to any type of pain reliever.

This is an example of process called “genericide”. In recent years, Google executives, for example, may have worried that verbifying their company name might turn their search engine process into the next aspirin disaster. In 2006 however, Merriam Webster added the verb “google” (spelled with a small “g”) to its dictionary, defining it as ‘a transitive verb meaning to use the Google search engine to obtain information”. In the end, this verbification proved to create two things: 1.) an overall boost for Google and 2.) a lofty goal for other search engines such as Bing. According to Thomas Pitoniak, the associate editor and composition manager for Merriam-Webster:

Google is a unique case. Because they have achieved so much prominence in the world of search, people have been using the word google as a generic verb now. Our main aim is to respond to the use of the language that we see. We consider ourselves very respectful of trademark. That (google as a lowercase verb) is really a lexicographical judgment based on the evidence that was analyzed.


© Flickr user William Brawley.

Mignon Fogarty aka Grammar Girl, dissected the idea of verbification on her blog, going as far back in its history as 1598. Interestingly enough, she points out that perhaps the concept of verbifying isn’t as dangerous a thing as why people worry about it occurring in the first place:

The perception seems to be that people are verbifying nouns faster than they used to. And one complaint is that it’s lazy writing to verbify words willy-nilly. For example, I was listening to Life Online with Bob Parsons, the GoDaddy CEO’s podcast, and he was talking about a reporter who used the word “GoDaddification” to describe how the sexy “Obama Girl” music videos have affected the political landscape. To me, that’s an example of a horrible verbification, and I can’t imagine it was fueled by anything but laziness.

Ultimately, Grammar Girl looks at this verb-forming phenomenon as harmless:

Verbification has been going on for a long time, and it’s part of how language evolves, especially when we’re coming up with words for new inventions, like lasers, microwaves, and Web searches.

In offering business blogging help, I’d say the same holds true in writing for business–more verbs makes for more dynamic blog content. Especially when it comes to boosting smaller companies. I wonder if achieving verbification of the business brand should be an actual goal of a blog marketing strategy? According to an article on a New York Times blog, for start-ups, the ultimate goal is becoming a verb. Nick Bilton, author of the piece, points out that while verbification was once viewed as a perilous happenstance in business, now is becoming the wave and motivation for the future.

. . . although some company names had become standard verbs, including Xerox, Rollerblade and FedEx, the fear in the past was that such company names would be so commonly used that they would become “generified,” potentially losing trademark status.

Over the last several years this mentality has rapidly shifted as the Web has taken off. Now the power of word-of-mouth marketing can lead to widespread awareness of a start-up.

“What is new is that in recent years some technology companies have begun to think of ‘verbing’ as a good thing,” Mr. Shapiro said in an e-mail. “Their thinking is that there is a strong positive marketing value from verbing, because verbs connote activity and excitement and because widespread use of a mark as a verb extends brand recognition.”

Here’s a verbification challenge for you:

Think about what noun your business can turn into a verb. Would you consider introducing it, then repeating it frequently in blog posts, emails, tweets, and promotions? It’s definitely valuable to at least think about right?

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Rhoda Israelov
With 35 years’ experience as a wordsmith, Rhoda Israelov has things to say about the things you’re saying to your online and in-person visitors. Founder of online marketing and content creation company Say It For You, Rhoda teaches practical skills that can sharpen the focus of any marketing initiative.
Rhoda Israelov


Professional Business Blogger and owner at Say It For You.
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