I’m sure that an interesting study in business school is how exactly a brand name becomes synonymous with a given item, such as Kleenex, Band-Aid and Play-Doh. All of these brand names have become the common name for facial tissues, adhesive bandages and modeling clay. Gosh, the brand names sure sound a lot better, don’t they? Let’s not forget perhaps the most prominent example of this phenomenon: “Buy me a Coke” means “Fetch me a soft drink.”
How does this happen? When does this happen? How long into the product’s existence does it take over the entire field? I wonder about such things when I see examples of a single brand so dominating a segment of commerce that it becomes synonymous with a given category of goods. Remember when copying machines were copying machines that made photocopies? Now you “Xerox” any pages that you need. Remember when you clicked on a search engine to find references to something on the Web? Now, you simply “google” it.
A similar welding of brand and item occurs when I think of backpacks. The name Eastpak is so synonymous with quality backpacks that if I took a survey on the nearby university’s campus, I would probably discover that fully 75% of the students have chosen Eastpak to lug their books around in. “Eastpak” has not taken over the term “backpack”, but it might only be a matter of time.
What did the designers at Eastpak do so well in the mid-70s way up north in Rochester, New York? What inspired them to create a backpack that would crush the competition? I wonder. Perhaps they were the first into the market, but I think most of it has to do with the extreme quality of the end product. That’s why travelers from North America to Asia to all points in between can be seen carrying their goods in Eastpak backpacks. I’ve seen them all over the world, and in my travels on four continents I am almost certain that I have seen the familiar Eastpak logo in every country in which I’ve lived (four and counting).
Eastpak brings that same passion for quality and hardiness to its entire line of bags and now jackets. You can grab an Eastpak duffel bag or a sporty messenger bag. You can show off your Eastpak logo on a computer carrying case (called a “reboot bag”) or a stylish gym bag (called a “rollout bag”). You can even wear Eastpak on your chest as you scale a mountain in a heavy Eastpak barrow padded jacket.
Now that it has whipped its competitors in the backpack industry, perhaps Eastpak’s team has been revived to take on the challenge of winning customers to its coats and jackets. It might not be long before we see Eastpak on a majority of jackets all over the world, too. Posted by Roger Martin for Stand Out.