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Zoom logoThe fast spreading Coronavirus has catapulted the term “social distancing” into our collective lexicon. That phrase—and its practice—has in turn led to the popularity of another word with a whole new meaning: Zoom, as in the video-conferencing app that has replaced face-to-face interaction in this time of social distancing and staying home.

Why is everyone talking about (and using) Zoom?

Video-conferencing is nothing new. For years, companies have used software like WebEx (launched in 1995) and GoToMeeting (launched in 2004) to conduct business meetings virtually. In the past decade, the prevalence of cameras being built into our desktops and mobile devices has resulted in video-chatting through services like Google Hangouts (released in 2013) or Apple FaceTime (released in 2010).

Compared to most of these video-conferencing technologies, Zoom, which was founded in 2013, is hardly the most established. So how did it become the online video-conferencing app of choice for schools, religious services and group socializing? How did it quickly become a verb synonymous with video-conferencing, like “Google” did for conducting an internet search or “Xerox” for making a copy?

How Zoom became so popular so quickly

Many companies and large organizations have a preferred video-conferencing app—whether it’s WebEx, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, etc. But most K-12 schools don’t. Probably because they never needed to. Learning took place in a physical classroom, and the use of video-conferencing was rare.

Suddenly, with kids across the country needing to learn remotely, educators scrambled to find a reliable, easy-to-use video-conferencing and screen sharing software to continue teaching. Zoom recognized this need and quickly stepped up and offered their software to educators for free, including many of the features that are usually only available with paid, premium licenses.

This created a fast, easy and free solution for school systems and a large influx of new users for Zoom. Within a matter of weeks, nearly every kid and their parents had Zoom accounts for school-related activities. Soon, they were using those accounts for socializing, with kids having Zoom playdates and parents gathering for Zoom happy hours.

Just looking at Google search volume shows how quickly Zoom has come into the public consciousness and gained popularity.

Recent search queries for Zoom compared to competitors
Google search queries for Zoom and their competitors

A strong, valuable brand

From a functional and practical standpoint, Zoom has the hallmarks of a strong brand name. It’s short, catchy and can be used as a verb (It’s more quick and fun to say “Let’s Zoom” than it is to say “Let’s have a video conference”).

But a great brand is more than just a great brand name. Having an emotional appeal and providing comfort is much more important. With good timing and goodwill during a challenging moment, they helped create positive sentiment amongst the public. They helped kids continue their education. They helped teachers do their job. They helped bring together groups of people who otherwise may have become isolated due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Any video-conferencing software could have done what Zoom did. Their technology or features aren’t vastly different from the competition. But Zoom was the one who did it, and they showed that to become a valuable brand, you first have to provide value to people.

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