You wouldn't choose your name by chance
Af: Jesper Ramsgaard
You have probably all been in a situation were you thought choosing the right name was important (Facebook group, company, football team etc.). A large body of research has looked at how choosing names for brands influence brand performance and success.
It is generally agreed that the brand name is an important part of the brand and a fundamental part of the communication effort. Brand names can be extremely effective shortcuts to facilitate product associations, familiarity, and symbols (Keller et al, 2008; Aaker, 1996; Kohli et al, 2005). Brand names are also used in distinguishing products from others, and communicating these differences to the consumer – setting product expectation and describing product benefits (Reece & Ducoffe, 1987, Kohli et al, 2005).
The general understanding of a ‘good’ brand name from an academic perspective typically evolves around the depended variables liking, recognition, and recall (for a review see Kohli et al, 2005). One of the main focuses of brand name studies and brand management guidelines is the dimension of meaningful/non-meaningful, which is one of the factors that is normally found to have a large interaction with liking, recognition, and recall (see e.g. Kohli & Suri, 2000). Using a non-meaningful name were you aim to build brand meaning and value over time is also dubbed the ‘Juliet Principle’, whereas the alternative strategy were you build on phonetic symbolism and/or meaningful positive connotations is the ‘Joyce Principle’. Other variables that are seen as relevant are simplicity, differentiation, uniqueness, and typicality (within product category).
The interesting thing about some of the research done in the area of brand name is that some researchers seem to acknowledge that the level of preference for a brand name can be depended on not the name alone, but also the name in a context. E.g. Zinkhan & Martin (1987) found that brand names that are ‘typical’ within a product category are perceived more favorably than ‘atypical’ names. The main lesson to be learned is that preference is not necessarily a global attribute but very context specific (e.g. the pairing of a brand name to a certain product should be meaningful within the product category).
It is not always clear what level of congruency is being used as independent variables in the studies done on brand names. Mostly however it seems that congruency is being ‘estimated’ by the experimenter along a more or less semantic dimension, or estimated by ‘experts’ or ‘judges’ on scales describing level of e.g. relevance of name (sound familiar?). There could however be reason to think that congruency between brand and name may be a multidimensional phenomena.
Factors like cross modal interactions between product characteristics and e.g. words/names have not been widely studied, but in a recent article from 2010 Spence & Gallace examined the level of cross modal correspondence between food products like Maltesers, brie, cranberry juice etc. and nonsense shapes/words (with certain dominating characteristics like roundness/sharpness of vowel sound, angularity of the shape). They found that participants show similar ratings (significantly across all scales) in scoring the food products on these cross modal scales (Spence & Gallace, 2010). Congruency is hence not only a semantic phenomenon but may also relate to cross modal correspondences of e.g. sound symbolism (see e.g. Kink, 2003) and product taste, texture, feel etc.
When we look across the brand elements of name and visual logo the main criteria for a good logo/name is dependent on
- An affective dimension – either being an inherent global characteristic that transfers positive affect to the brand (classical conditioning approach) or alternatively being a positive affect as a results of
- A memory related dimension (usually recognisability)
- Meaningful characteristics along some dimension of congruency with the main message/brand identity (being product category typicality, sound symbolism, descriptive characteristics etc.)
A sound logo is a brand element much like a name and visual logo. Maybe not as culturally well understood as naming a company (which is required by law), but still a brand element, which should be chosen and cared for as you would with your name.
- Aaker, D. A. (1996). Building strong brands. Simon & Schuster UK Ltd.
- Keller, K. L., Apéria, T., & Georgson, M. (2008). Strategic brand management - A european perspective (First ed.). Pearsons Education Limited.
- Kohli, C. S., Harich, K. R., & Leuthesser, L. (2005). Creating brand identity: A study of evaluation of new brand names. Journal of Business Research, 58,
- Kohli SC, Suri, R. (2000). Brand names that work: a study of the effectiveness of different types of brand names. Mark Manag J.
- Spence, C., & Gallace, A. (2010). Tasting shapes and words. Food Quality and Preference.
- Zinkhan GM, Martin CR (1987). New brand names and inferential beliefs: some insights on naming new products. J Bus Res.