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September 25, 2007

Product Naming: Would You Buy a Himmer?

Alphabet SoupStrategic Name Development conducted proprietary consonant research that found certain consonants have meaningful association in consumers' minds.

For example, B and C were seen as less complex (think Bounty and Cheerios), while X was considered innovative and L and V were rated more feminine.

Similarly, researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio recently found that vowel sounds are linked to certain adjectives, and can influence the way people see a product based on its name.

For instance, front vowel sounds (like the "i" in mill) are associated with ideas like small, fast, sharp, light, hard and angular. Back vowel sounds (think "a" in mall) connote adjectives such as large, slow, dull, heavy, soft and round.

In this study, 70% of respondents chose a name with a back vowel for the SUV product name, while 66% selected a sharper sounding front vowel name for the knife product name.

I had the opportunity to weigh in on the ability of a product name's sound to make or break the product.

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Posted by Diane Prange at September 25, 2007 2:36 PM
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2 Comments

The University of Texas might have recently performed this research, but that kind of sound symbolism is familiar to anyone who's taken an intro to linguistics class.

Look at onomatopoeia and sound effects:
tweet vs. woof
plink vs. boom

Having studied linguistics, I can say with some authority that this kind of marketing research is certainly not part of the standard course. I think what Bill is referring to is really hardcore brand management information that shows people actually matching dummy brand names to products. This in turn gives us a kind of road map for product naming.

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