There are some brands that grow in popularity to an extent that the brand name is used to describe a specific product. However, this does not happen overnight. The brand needs to be correctly positioned in the market and the necessary investment be made in advertising the brand. Advertising and promotions are said to be the key elements to creating brand awareness. The more consumers see your brand the more likely to remember it and associate it with a specific product category.

If you grew up in the township or a predominantly black community, you may relate better with the following brands as they were commonly used as generic names for products.

  1. Colgate

According to Icon Brands Survey, the Colgate brand is one of the iconic brands in South Africa. The brand was founded in New York City, America by William Colgate in 1806 producing starch, soap and candles. Colgate first produced toothpastes in 1873 and they were sold in jars. Colgate toothpastes have become so popular in South Africa to an extent that most township people use Colgate toothpaste as the generic term for toothpastes. Instead of saying “please add the Aquafresh toothpaste on the shopping list”, most South Africans would say “please add the Aquafresh Colgate on the shopping list”.

  1. Happy Socks

This is the youngest brand on the list, founded in 2008 in Sweden by two friends Viktor Tell and Mikael Soderlindh. According Hype Beast, Happy Socks was created with the simplest of intentions — to inspire happiness in the lives of its founders and those around them. Before Happy Socks, there was no sock brand that had affordable colourful socks. Therefore the founders saw a gap to penetrate that market. In South Africa, the brand has become so popular that colourful socks are called Happy Socks even though they are not by Happy Socks. You will hear most South African say “he rocked a tailored navy suit with Happy Socks by Skinny Sbu Socks”.

  1. Checkers

Checkers is one of the largest retail brands in South Africa, founded by Norman Herber. It was acquired by the Shoprite Group in 1991.  Unlike Shoprite, the Checkers brand is targeted at the upper class and you will not find a single shop in the townships. However, Checkers is a popular term used for plastic bag in the townships. Ironic, right?

  1. Dawn

Dawn lotion is a Unilever brand, launched in South Africa in the 1960s. According to the company, Dawn is one of the biggest brands in the hand and body lotion market. Its reputation in the townships has led the brand to be used as a common word for hand and body lotions. In a typical conversation between two friends, it will be used this way; “Busi, your skin is so beautiful, what lotion do you use”? And the response would be something like “I use the Nivea Dawn”.

  1. Rama

Rama Margarine (also a Unilever brand) is one of the most trusted margarine brands in most South African families. The Rama brand has become so popular that margarine is referred to Rama. You will hear the aunties say “the Sunshine D Rama makes delicious cakes”.

  1. Coke

Coke is a short name for Coca-Cola. It is the world’s most recognisable word after “hello”. Invented by John Pemberton in the 19th century and was originally intended as a patent medicine. Coke was bought out by Asa Griggs Candler whose marketing led the brand to dominance of the soft-drink market. South Africans use Coke to refer to any soft drink, you hear them say “please buy the Pepsi Coke”.

  1. Sta-Soft

Sta-Soft is another Colgate-Palmolive brand. Sta-Soft is the most popular fabric conditioner in South Africa. This has led the brand to be used as basic name for fabric conditioners. You will hear South Africans saying “the Comfort Sta-Soft makes clothes smell fresh”.

  1. Simba

Simba (pronounced Zimba in the townships) is a product of the PepsiCo Group. This brand that roars with flavour was as born out of the vision of an old lady from the Eastern Cape, Mrs Greyvenstein in 1957. We can safely say this lekker chip brand is proudly South African. You will hear a South African saying “I am craving for amaZimba Chips we Lays”.

  1. Chappies

Did you know that the Chappies brand was introduced in South Africa in the late 1940s by Arthur Ginsburg? And that the brand has become synonymous with the word bubblegum? Chappies was sold to Cudbury in the 1970s, which still owns it today. You will hear people in the township saying; “The Stimorol Chappies has long lasting fresh taste”.

  1. Vaseline

In the vocabulary of most South Africans the words “petroleum jelly” are completely non-existent. Unilever’s Vaseline is to be blamed for this. Vaseline is the No. 1 skin care brand in South Africa. It was discovered by a 22 year chemist, Robert Chesebrough back in 1859 in Brooklyn, New York. The name Vaseline is a combination of two words- one being German (Wasse for water) and the other being Greek (Oleon for oil). Most black mothers would say; “the Johnson & Johnson Vaseline is good for my baby’s skin”.

If you know of other brands that are used as generic names for products, please do not hesitate to leave a comment below.  And  if you like this article, please SHARE IT! and do get in touch with @PatOnBrands on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat.

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Thokozani Patrick Mahlangu

Thokozani Mahlangu is an internationally certified digital marketing professional and an Mcom Business Management graduate from the University of Johannesburg. He is the Chief Brand Creator of Pat onBrands and Pat onFitness- a fitness movement through which organizes weekly runs under the banner #RunWithPat.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. At any age, at any time, you can NEVER go wrong with all the mentioned or listed brands. #PatOnBrands

    1. Absolutely. A big Pat on you for reading this. Much appreciated!

  2. Welldone Pat ,These are indeed the most common brands in our households.

  3. Spot on @PatOnBrands! Great read…

    1. A big Pat on you for reading this post. Much appreciated!

  4. Love it!!!

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