“I’ll just hoover the floor” as he pulled out the Dyson.
“Have you got some Sellotape?”
“Yes” she replied, handing over the Scotch tape.
There are many brands that have become generic catch all names for an entire class of products. The generic is so ingrained in our psyches that it’s difficult to imagine calling them anything else. To try and call them anything else would mark you out as a pedant. They’re a shorthand that helps makes life go along quickly.
How long does it take for a name to become a generic identifier? What happens in the meta zone when a service is crying out for a name, a visual shorthand or action to identify it by?

Contactless payment lives in this zone. It’s a service that wants to become as familiar and routine as hoovering the floor. Yet it exists without a name or visual signifier - we have nothing to call it by or action to represent it.

When I pay with cash, I can simply hand over a physical object - the notes and coins in my hand signify that I’m paying with cash. Equally, the debit or credit card held in your hand identifies that you want to use the chip and pin machine.


However, what do you do when you want to pay by contactless payment? It’s difficult to enough to type, let alone say it: “I’ll contactless pay please”. It’s a 21st Century retail tongue twister. The equivalent is imagining having to say “I’ll pay with cash” or “I’ll pay with my credit card” each time you pay - hardly a frictionless world.


You could of course use one of Visa or Mastercard’s brand names for contactless payment. “I’ll Tap and Go™” but that would mean you’ve descended to the level of Nathan Barley.


It’s also impossible to hold up your card as a visual shortcut as the action is too similar to the shorthand for using a chip and pin machine.


Introducing a new service is tough, especially one that that has the ability to become ubiquitous. However, wanting to change the way that people act in a fundamental way needs more than a logo and a marketeer’s name. It needs a way of talking about it and a visual shorthand. Until then, I’ll continue to wave my contactless card in the general direction of the ‘contactless payment machine’ and just say “I’ll erm... use the doohickey please”.