Last month, Specsavers successfully trademarked the word ‘should’ve’ - a key part of its infamous catchphrase “should’ve gone to Specsavers”.

Though rivals still have a few weeks left to make an objection, if the ruling passes, all other companies will be prevented from using the word for marketing purposes in future.

Unsurprisingly, many are bemused at how such a common verb can be trademarked, as well as why the brand would go to such lengths to protect it.

Personally, I think it’s a great example of a brand using words to its advantage.

Here’s why.

Capitalising on consistency

As Professor Byron Sharp suggests, a logo or name is simply an asset that identifies a brand.

Through sheer repetition, consumers accept them regardless of their original meaning or context. 

For example, no one really considers (or cares) why it is called Facebook or where the name Haribo comes from. 

So, why can’t all the words a brand chooses to use in its advertising be seen as an asset?

Instead of changing its slogan multiple times, “should’ve gone to Specsavers” has been a consistent part of the company’s advertising for 13 years, integrated into hundreds of ads.

As a result, consumers now accept the slogan and the brand as one. 

This shows that no matter how a brand advertises itself, consistency is a key factor for memorability, and far more effective than having multiple identities. 

Distinct attributes = distinct brand

Following on from this, the decision to use ‘should’ve’ is part of Specsavers aim to separate itself from the pack. 

The brand is known for its whimsical and humorous advertising, using ‘should’ve gone to Specsavers’ as the tagline for a farmer shaving his dog instead of a sheep or pensioners mistaking a rollercoaster for a park bench. 

As a result, the distinction between ‘should have’ and ‘should’ve’ – while seemingly trivial – is actually huge. It is the difference between sounding like every other brand, or the friendly and jovial Specsavers that consumers that know and love.

Another company that has also managed to trademark a single word is Carlsberg.

Famous for its "probably the best beer in the world" slogan, it decided to put a stamp of ownership on the word ‘probably’.

Combined with the Carlsberg design, it has morphed into something so recognisable that during Euro 2016, the brand managed to get around the law which states alcohol cannot be advertised on French television. The ads consisted of nothing but the word ‘probably’.

It was an inspired piece of marketing, and a great example of how brands can use language to truly distinguish themselves.

Brands becoming verbs

Finally, while Specsavers have chosen to trademark a verb, let's remember how brands themselves are often verbalised. XX

In reality we might edit, search, glue, and video-call - yet we choose to say Photoshop, Google, Superglue and Facetime more often than not. 

These brands have become part of our lexicon to the point where they are now actions.

Of course, we'll never think about words like 'should've' in this way (though we might say the phrase due to it becoming a part of pop culture). 

The point is, however, that Specsavers still recognises how language associated with a brand can enter into our everyday lexicon, and as a result, is unafraid to capitalise on the fact.

While others concentrate on the logo or the person advertising it, the optical retailer fiercely protects the words associated with its brand identity. 

Nikki Gilliland

Published 20 September, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (2)

Neale Gilhooley

Neale Gilhooley, MD at Evolution Design Ltd

Which categories have the trademarked these word under? Esp Speccy savers?

almost 2 years ago

Claire Warne

Claire Warne, Social Media Manager at HiFX

Neale, I just did a search for this out of curiosity - it turns out, quite a few!

https://www.ipo.gov.uk/tmcase/Results/1/UK00003175246

almost 2 years ago

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