• Patrick Schober

Define ‘Zoom Town’: Why This New Colloquialism Matters to the Future of Zoom Video Communications

The term “Zoom Town” has grown in popularity in recent months. While it could provide a short-term boost to Zoom Video Communications, it could also have long-lasting negative consequences.

What is a ‘Zoom Town’?

A “Zoom Town” is any town that has seen rapid growth as a result of more and more companies shifting to remote work during the pandemic. It’s a simple portmanteau of “boom town” and “Zoom,” the name of the popular video service.

How We Got Here

Zoom wasn’t always a household name. In fact, Skype was the leading video tool only 10 years ago.

But the landscape has changed dramatically.

Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet all give Skype stiff competition.

Skype was founded in 2011 by a former Cisco Webex VP. Under his leadership, Zoom went through multiple funding rounds, eventually becoming a “unicorn” (a company that quickly achieves a $1 billion valuation) in 2017. That same year, the Zoom team began working with Slack and other organizations for seamless integration.

Zoom continued to grow in popularity through 2018 and 2020, but its userbase exploded during the pandemic in early 2020. Schools switched to relying on Zoom for online classes, and companies incorporated the software into their daily operations to assist in remote meetings.

By April 2020, Zoom’s userbase had exploded to 300 million daily users—up from 10 million at the end of 2019. Even today in early 2021, companies and schools continue to rely on Zoom for daily operations.

Paralleling Zoom’s growth has been the reemergence of small-town America. With in-office work significantly reduced, some families have found themselves untethered to major cities and have escaped densely populated regions for smaller (and potentially safer from COVID-19) towns.

These growing towns are now boom towns—or “Zoom Towns.”

Why “Zoom Towns” Matter to Zoom

“Zoom Town” is a type of genericization. It’s subtle, but it’s there. A genericization is when a brand name becomes synonymous with a noun or verb.

Think of how “Xerox” came to mean “make a copy” or “Google” eventually meant to “look something up on a search engine.”

Looking back even further, words like “kerosene” and “escalator” were brand names at one point.

Left alone, “genericization” can result in losing trademarks, with the basic argument being that the name has come to mean something other than the brand or product.

It’s such a big deal that Adobe has grown more and more aggressive in fighting off the use of “photoshop” as a verb, even outlining how to properly use the word in a sentence on its trademarks page.

The guidelines are strict enough to make your writing sound awkward and stilted. For example, instead of writing, “The image was photoshopped,” Adobe wants you to write, “The image was enhanced using Adobe® Photoshop® software.”

That’s just not how people talk.

How It Could End Poorly For Zoom Video Communications

There are some potential genericization issues for Zoom, but it seems the company has benefited massively from the pandemic. Its current stock evaluation is $435.17, up from $96.38 only a year ago.

Zoom Video Communications Stock Ticker

Short-term, Zoom shouldn’t have many issues in the profits department.

But the “Zoom Towns” boom could still backfire. What if Zoom Towns end up faltering? What if the influx of out-of-towners brings new strains of the coronavirus, endangering the rest of the townspeople and crippling the local medical system?

What if the new residents decide to pack up and leave after the pandemic is resolved, taking their valuable education and financial resources with them?

Like many of history’s boom towns, these Zoom Towns could eventually bust.

There lies Zoom’s biggest threat over the next five to 10 years. If a “Zoom Town” comes to mean “a town that once thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic but now suffers from brain drain and fewer economic resources,” then Zoom Video Communications could suffer its own image problem simply by association.

For now, this seems unlikely. Zoom is a reliable, stable product trusted by millions of people all over the world.

But if the pandemic concludes and small towns suffer, “Zoom Town” could one day hold negative connotations that hurt the brand.

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