While shopping at Target over the weekend, I was able, fortunately, to prevent what could have been a Christmas morning tragedy.
In addition to shopping for my daughter - whose birthday falls exactly one week before Christmas - I was doing my part to enhance Apple's December quarter results by purchasing an iPod Nano for that special someone in my life. While I was in the iPod aisle, a middle-aged woman came by and, seeing the display for the rival Zune directly across from the iPods, declared, "There's the iPods!"
I quickly informed her that the product she had discovered was not the iPod, and that the person for whom she was shopping would almost certainly be disappointed if they had, in fact, asked specifically for an iPod. I pointed out the iPod display behind her.
"This isn't the same thing?" she asked, looking at the Zunes.
"It's made by Microsoft," I replied. "Need I say more?"
The woman nodded in acknowledgment and turned around to face the iPod display. Another successful intervention by Apple Man! (Though my black cape and tights with the white Apple logo on the chest were at the cleaners that day).
This isolated incident has me wondering whether the iPod's market dominance eventually could have the unwanted side effect of turning the brand name "iPod" into a generic term, like Kleenex or Band-Aid. In other words, the technically challenged among us could start calling all MP3 players, regardless of manufacturer, "iPods."
If people shopping for iPods don't realize that only Apple Inc. makes the genuine article, there is some risk that they could inadvertently purchase a rival product. Apple someday may need to take this into consideration in its marketing to keep iPod from becoming a "genericized trademark."
Either that or Apple will need to recruit an army of superheroes to watch over the electronics sections of all retail outlets where iPods are sold.