When Xerox first came out with its photocopying machine in 1959, the company wasn’t using new technology—photocopying had already existed since 1939, though there wasn’t a whole lot of it going on. However, Xerox started a new wave of nomenclature: successful businesses’ names becoming verbs. We’re more likely nowadays to say we need to “Xerox” something as opposed to “photocopying” it (when we do this at all; further innovation means we’ve actually moved onto other technologies for the most part at this point).
While Xerox may have lamented the “genericide” of its brand name, it’s actually something businesses strive for today. We “Google” when we look for something using a search engine online; we “Skype” when we use VOIP technology to video chat. Other companies such as eBay, Airbnb, and Uber are working toward “verb-ing” their company names as well.
The latest company to get in on the action may well be DocuSign, whose chairman, Keith Krach, came out of retirement precisely to achieve entry into this sort of lexicon.
DocuSign, created in 2003 by Tom Gonser, is an electronic signatures startup that now works with big names like Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, and Hewlett-Packard, as well as 14 of the top 15 US wealth management companies and 12 of the top 15 US insurance carriers. They have largely replaced the paper-based method of document signing and general transactions between companies with a secure, electronic method.
“We are right at the center of digital transaction management, enabling anybody to transact anything anywhere any time on any device securely,” said Krach. “It’s bigger than customer relationship management. That’s a big opportunity. When I got there, you could see the potential.”
Does this mean companies will now “DocuSign” contracts and other documents? Would this be a positive development for the company, or a sign of the genericide Xerox experienced? Only time will tell.
Regardless, the plethora of company names becoming verbs does indicate the trend is likely to continue in the future, whether it spells growth or problems for the companies who experience it.