Should brand names roll off the tongue?


Idiomatic brand names are easier to recognise and remember, and consumers have a more positive reaction to them. But new research suggests that brand names that are difficult to pronounce can receive an equally positive reaction.


You are at the supermarket, deciding which milk to buy. In the cold counter is milk with the names Pelling, Wabors and Lantht. According to the research of Antonia Erz, Assistant Professor at the Department of Marketing, you will probably pick the milk named Pelling. However, if you were picking an expensive cheese, there's a good chance you would choose Lantht.

- If a brand name is easy to pronounce, it is also easier to recognise and recall, and consumers respond more positively to it. But less idiomatic names will not necessarily scare off the consumer, explains Antonia Erz.

She has researched how consumers respond to difficult-to-pronounce brand names. The research focuses on brand names that carry no meaning and therefore do not refer to existing words, family names or the function of a product.

Together with a research team, she has conducted experiments where research subjects were introduced to invented names that carried no meaning, such as Pelling, Wabors and Lantht. If you try to pronounce the three words, you will realise they represent three degrees of pronunciation difficulty.

Difficult words
The results of the experiments are not completely unequivocal and Antonia Erz is doing further research in the area. But certain tendencies are forming. First and foremost that brand names which are easy to pronounce are also easier to recognise and remember. But the experiments also demonstrated that the research subjects in some circumstances remembered the difficult names just as well as the easy ones.

- We saw that if we introduced a name with a brand related to creativity, originality or quality, our research subjects recalled the difficult words just as well as the easy words, says Antonia Erz.

This suggests that the subject responds more positively to hard-to-pronounce brand names if the product is exclusive. Most people might not care about the name of their milk, while a name might suddenly make a big difference if you are buying a car or a computer.

No happy medium
The research of Antonia Erz may turn some marketing people's hair grey when they are naming products. Is it best to pick a name that rolls off the tongue, or do you take a chance with a difficult name that may be related to quality?

The obvious choice would seem to be picking a name with medium difficulty, but Antonia Erz advises against this.

- Our research suggests that brand names with medium pronunciation difficulty are the least predictable when it comes to the subjects' reaction. Sometimes they're easily remembered, sometimes they're not. So we find it's a more risky choice of name than an easy or a difficult name, says Antonia Erz.

She is doing further research to provide clarity on the area. Her research project is part of her individual Marie Curie postdoc fellowship from the EU. The research project will be completed in mid-2015.

Contact Antonia Erz to learn more

The page was last edited by: Communications // 12/17/2017