Naming In The News

Finding the 'S' Appeal

Frozen Food Age
June 1, 2006

Frozen products with serpent-like shape of "S" evoke desire, sensuality; "K" means dependability.

New refrigerated and frozen brand manufacturers should probably consider using a brand name beginning with the letter "S" if they want to appeal to female shoppers. That's just one of the intriguing research findings completed by Strategic Name Development, a naming company that has worked with many well-known Fortune 500 companies.

"The letter's serpent-like shape evokes desire and sensuality," explains Bill Lozito, co-founder and President, Strategic Name Development. "So brands beginning with an 'S' such as Sara Lee and Stouffers tend to reflect femininity."

Alternatively, brand names beginning with a "K" such as Kraft evoke a certain dependability in part because of the letter's unvarying pronunciation. "The prevalence of food brands beginning with K is more than nine times higher than that of plain English text, and the prevalence of the letter S is more than twice as frequent," says Lozito.

Strategic Name Development researched what different consonants represent in consumers' minds. The results were then compared with the top 1,000 most advertised brands, and analyzed by industry. Strategic Name Development has segmented these recent consumer research findings into 11 industry reports including Food and Restaurants, Beverages, Automotive, Health and Beauty and Retail. Its food business clients include ConAgra, Campbell's, Schwan's, Darden, Cadbury Adams, Quaker and T. Marzetti.

Conventional brand naming examines such factors as the number of syllables, memorability and how easy a name is to pronounce. "But this recent research on specific letters of the alphabet provides knowledge and insight as to why some names have greater target market acceptance than others," says Lozito. "And although it is not a precise science, we see it as a significant new naming tool."

The primary naming approaches used for frozen and refrigerated foods are coined and suggestive. "Some 32% of food and restaurant brands have suggestive names like Tyson Fire Stingers and Jimmy Dean's Breakfast Skillets. Coined names such as Velveeta and Lunchables account for another 32%," Lozito confirms.

"Marketers may want to consider a descriptive naming approach to differentiate a new product from the competition," Lozito advises. "Right now it's the least popular (11%) which means there is some room for growth." Successful examples of descriptive naming include Morey's Seafood's Smoked White Fish and Rosina's Sausage Meatballs.

Lozito adds that food brands, on average, have more characters (11.3 versus 10.4) and fewer syllables (3.3 versus 3.5) than the top 1,000 brands. Lozito and his tight-knit team of marketing and linguistic professionals have extensive experience with creating brand names, having worked with a number of industry giants including Pillsbury, Kraft General Foods and ConAgra Foods. "We must look at what's achievable as well as what has already been done in the category," says Diane Prange, the company's co-founder and chief linguistics officer. "We also have trademark expertise. In this way, we introduce some reality and science into the naming process."

Lozito comments, "Everyone feels they can name something. But there's a tremendous amount of discipline that goes into our strategy. We're not just back room creative copywriters. We're not just trademark specialists. And we're not just linguists. By integrating a more scientific approach into the brand naming process, we offer a greater degree of objectivity."

In addition to using this new alphabet research as a tool, Strategic Name Development also works with sound symbolism, psycholinguistics, and a keen understanding of how the name will appear visually, among other variables. "We have a very disciplined approach for evaluating names based on the client's objectives. And most importantly, we look at names from the perspective of the target market," says Lozito.

That moves people away from the subjective evaluations that result in names being added or eliminated based on nothing more than gut reactions. Lozito says the nearly universal response they hear from clients is, "You've got me thinking about the naming process differently!"