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10 Brand Names That Became Generic Product Names in Jamaica

by Kesha Stewart | Associate Writer



Jamaicans are a unique bunch. We have an uncanny ability to turn things into whatever suits us. If there's one thing we have done successfully is to turn brand names into generic names. Think about it for a minute. You do know that Bully Beef, Fab, Ajax and Vaseline are all brand names, right? OK maybe you're not old enough to remember Bully Beef but what about King Kong, Chubby, Soflan, Fabuloso, Scotch Brite and Colgate?

In Jamaica, any of these brand names can each be a generic name for a commonly used product, regardless of the existing brand name of the product being referred to. Sounds complex right? Here are a few simple examples to help you figure out the method to this madness.
  1. In the first instance, Bully Beef. Bully Beef is used to refer to all brands of corned beef. Bully Beef was the brand name for a corned beef that was sold locally in earlier times. It became such a household name that even now we can't get it out of our system. As a result, Jamaicans typically refer to corned beef as Bully Beef, therefore it is not uncommon to hear someone ask you, What type of Bully Beef do you prefer?

  2. The brand is no longer in existence but the name has remained with Jamaicans for generations. I'm speaking of Fab laundry detergent. As a child, I was often sent to the neighbourhood shop to purchase a powdered laundry detergent that had the brand name Fab. I remember the fresh lemon fragrance, bright lemon displayed on the box and the simple name Fab. The fact that the brand is no longer sold here has not led to a decline in the use of the brand name. So regardless of the brand of powdered laundry detergent that is required, you are always sent to search for Fab. Housewives can often be heard talking about the type (brand) of Fab they prefer. Oblivious to the fact that Fab in and of itself is a brand.

  3. One of the most popular scouring powders is the brand Ajax. This scouring cleanser is known the world over and in Jamaica, it is very popular. As a matter of fact, in the past, it was the only type of scoring detergent that seemed to be available in my community. Of course, it may be because we were a rural community, but my grandmother seemed to have a special preference for it. Even when other brands of scoring cleanses became available she would still want her Ajax. I notice now, however, that Ajax has become a generic name that is used to refer to all brands of scoring cleansers.

  4. Everyone remembers the blue label with the word Vaseline splashed across it in a most recognizable but unassuming manner. It was easily spotted and a greatly appreciated gift when relatives visit from overseas, certainly at the time of my childhood. All forms of petroleum jelly sold in Jamaica are therefore given that generic name Vaseline. Regardless of colour, shape, size or brand.

  5. The product with the brand name Chubby comes from the island of Trinidad and Tobago. It is a very popular artificially flavoured soft drink in Jamaica. It comes in a small plastic bottle with contents of just over 8 ounces and is available in various flavours.

    The distinctive label bears a stout cartoon character engaged in fun activities such as sailing, surfing or biking. The shape of the bottle is quite distinct from that of other soft drink manufacturers. This does not stop Jamaicans from making Chubby a generic name. Now, even though only one brand has the right to be called Chubby, all forms of plastic bottled sodas are typically referred to as Chubby. If they exceed the size of the branded Chubby, no problem, we simply ask for a 'big' Chubby. I'm not sure that this is what the manufacturer intended when they perhaps set their goal of making Chubby a household name in Jamaica. But that's the kind of people we are.

  6. Let's go back to doing laundry for a minute, there is a branded liquid laundry detergent known as Soflan. I am not certain that this product is still sold in Jamaica but to the best of my recollection, it was the first type of liquid laundry detergent that was manufactured locally. It was typically used for washing the softer, more delicate adult clothes as well as baby clothes. Soflan became known as a mild household liquid laundry detergent that everyone wanted to use.

    However, nowadays, people still use the name Soflan but not necessarily in reference to the branded product. It is now a generic name for any form of liquid laundry detergent. In some cases, Soflan used to refer to any brand of fabric softener, a further corruption of the brand.

  7. Jamaicans love Fabuloso so much that It seems impossible to do any form of household cleaning without this all-purpose cleaner. As a result, the unthinkable or perhaps not so unthinkable has happened.

    Now every brand of all-purpose cleaner may be given the name Fabuloso. Whether one is referring to the branded product itself or another completely different all-purpose cleaner really doesn't matter; everything is Fabuloso.

  8. Scotch-Brite scouring pads introduced us to a more efficient way of scoring our pots and pans. The brand is widely available in Jamaica and is quite popular. It is so popular that Jamaicans refer to every type of scouring pad as Scotch-Brite. It seems almost as if 3M has committed a sin by making Scotch-Brite a household name because now Jamaicans have treated a brand name as generic.

  9. Colgate toothpaste is the most popular brand on the island as far as I am aware. Generations ago the brand was introduced to Jamaica. Since then, relatives visiting from overseas would have to tuck away a few in their suitcases to appease every family member; the brand loyalty is high. But with competition, more brands of toothpaste have emerged in Jamaica.

    We even have locally manufactured brands competing with international brands, however, it still holds its own. It is a household name and in Jamaica, it probably means just one thing: Every product like it will receive the brand name so, every form or brand of toothpaste may be referred to as Colgate.

  10. Isn't it strange how every brand of baby diapers are called Pampers? Again, the first diaper most Jamaicans were familiar with was the brand Pampers. Naturally, the generic name for diapers whether internationally or locally manufactured is pampers.
I know I said 10 but I had to include this one! The Daily Gleaner is one of the most prominent and most reliable newspapers on the island. So much so, that every other newspaper is referred to as a gleaner or gleaner paper regardless of what the actual name of the newspaper is.

You'd be surprised how many Jamaicans turn brand names into generic names even though they know the correct name to use. Others will swear they are right and you are wrong. So I guess that every 'bag juice' (bagged frozen drink) will remain "King Kong" after the brand that began the bag juice revolution.

My apologies to the affected manufacturers and marketing companies but Jamaicans have no problem with it. I'm certain that there are probably several other products that we have converted the brand name to a generic name. Can you think of any?

I also recommend you read 11 Popular Jamaican Breakfast Items.

Regards,
KS

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