Jeep brand on a slippery slope

If you are the owner of one of the most well-know brands on the planet, you wouldn’t want the brand to degenerate and become a generic term. But that is what is happening at warp speed for DaimlerChrysler’s classic brand Jeep, at least here in Sweden.

There is a big debate in Sweden about SUV’s and, among other things, whether they should be taxed harder for excessive fuel consumption. At the same time Volvo launches a V8-model of its SUV Volvo XC 90, which fuels the debate on the necessity of these vehicles.

Problem is that the term SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) doesn’t sit well with Swedes, so most people use the term “stadsjeep” (city jeep). A quick search in the media archives shows 1250 articles using the term “stadsjeep”, since 2002. All major media outlets use this term. Even official communication from insurance companies, governmental organizations and environmental movements use the term.

And a new survey by Bil Sweden today also shows that SUV’s are predominantly not bought by people in the city, so the term city jeep makes little sense.

So what can you do? You can’t blame Volvo, they call it an SUV. And the Jeep website is just filled with the registrered trademark symbol ®, so they’ve got that part covered. Can you hold media accountable for diluting your brand? Probably not. Media can lean on the freedom of the press act.

But you can, and should:

> continue to inform media that Jeep is a registered trademark until they realize that they are infringing on a company’s (immaterial) assets.

> help media coin a suitable term instead of SUV. No ideas yourself? Maybe the blogosphere can come up with a few suggestions?

> On top of that I would write to the news agency TT who publish recommendations to media in using the Swedish language and ask them to recommend against using “stadsjeep”. TT already wrote two years ago that a SUV in Sweden should be called suvbil (SUV car) but that “it has already become a standard practice to call them stadsjeepar (city jeeps)”.