Creating New Brand Names: Effects...
Creating New Brand Names: Effects of Relevance, Connotation, and Pronunciation YEQING BAO University of Alabama in Huntsville firstname.lastname@example.org ALAN T. SHAO University of North Caroiina at Charlotte email@example.com DREW RIVERS North Carolina State University firstname.lastname@example.org Field research and a laboratory study were conducted to empirically examine the effects of brand relevance, connotation, and pronunciation on consumers' preferences for new brand names. The context theory of memory retrieval and the simplicity principle provided the foundation for our research hypotheses. In both cases, study results supported the main effects of relevance, connotation, and pronunciation of brand names on consumers' brand preference. In addition, results showed that the contribution of connotation will be attenuated if the brand name is difficult to pronounce. WHEN A COMPANY DECIDES on a brand name for a new product or service, it establishes the founda- tion of the brand's image (Kohli and LaBahn, 1997). The selection of the proper brand name is one of the most vital marketing decisions an or- ganization will make because it is typically the centerpiece of introductory marketing programs (Keller, 1993 Lee and Ang, 2003). While there is little doubt the brand name is an integral piece of an organization, its precise contribution to the organization is usually difficult to quantify. In- deed organizations are often befuddled when at- tempting to understand the incremental utility or value added to a product by its brand name (Farquhar, Han, and Ijiri, 1991 Park and Srini- vasan, 1994 Yoo, Donthu, and Lee, 2000). But the potential potency of a brand name is undeniable, as evidenced from John Stuart, former Chairman of Quaker Oats Ltd.: "If the business were split up, I would take the brands, trademarks, and goodwill, and you could have all the bricks and mortar���and I would fare better than you" (Dyson, Farr, and Hollis, 1996). This view is further cor- roborated by several recent financial studies which found that firms with certain names (e.g., easy pronunciation or better sounding) outperform firms with names otherwise in the stock market, and such effect is robust even after controlling firm size, industry, growth opportunity, profitability, and firm age (Alter and Oppenheimer, 2006 Howe and Xing, 2006). Marketers must be particularly concerned with selecting a brand name because it is the most dif- ficult brand element for them to subsequently change due to its close tie to the product or service in the minds of consumers (Keller, Heckler, and Houston, 1998 Klink, 2001). Thus, brand names are often sys- tematically researched before being chosen. Creat- ing a brand name is typically a daunting task. Fox (2002) noted that most of the challenges for creat- ing and promoting new brands are the same across industries. Some of the challenges include keeping it simple, making it easy to pronounce, making it memorable, gaining legal clearance, making sure that there are no negative connotations (in any lan- guage), and being distinctive. He offered addi- tional insight into the future of branding trends: brand names will sound more technical more brand names will start with an "X" or a vowel because they will be easier to register (i.e., legally clear) and, ideally, will be distinctive more brand names will be contrived generic descriptors will become more important, given more coined names, which often need clarification more attention will be de- voted to logos to help distinguish a brand from com- petition and keeping it simple will still apply. 1 4 8 JOUROIIL or HDUERTISmO REeEHRCH March 2 0 0 8 DOI: 10.2501/S002184990808015X
CREATING NEW BRAND NAMES Marketers must be particularly concerned with selecting a brand name because it is the most difficult brand element for them to subsequently change due to its close tie to the product or service in the minds of consumers. By recognizing the importance of the brand name in new-product develop- ment, more companies are spending sub- stantial resources in creating effective brand names (Miller, 1999). Many researchers have also devoted efforts to delineating the characteristics, functions, and princi- ples of effective brands names (e.g., Peter- son and Ross, 1972 Zinkhan and Martin, 1987). However, most of this research has been normative and empirical testing of these principles is scarce. Aiming to fill this gap, this research attempts to ad- vance the literature by empirically exam- ining the effects of relevance, connotation, and pronunciation on consumers' prefer- ence for new brand names. LITERATURE REVIEW Meanings of brand What is a brand? What is in a brand name? Questions like these arise as a sig- nificant variety of terms relating to brand (e.g., brand equity, brand management) frequent the marketing as well as other associated literatures (Tybout and Carpen- ter, 2001). Using a method of historical analysis that is theoretically grounded in the disciplines of philology, poetics, rhet- oric, and the philosophy of science. Stern (2006) proposes a scheme that describes the meaning of a brand based on a quad- ripartite set of dichotomies: the nature of brand as literal and metaphoric, its func- tion as entity and process, its locus as physical and mental, and its valence as positive and negative. This multidimen- sion scheme, together with the informa- tion theory, provides a useful theoretical approach to developing brand names for products. Information theory was first presented in 1949 (Shannon and Weaver, 1949). It is a mathematical approach to studying com- munication and describes information as a probabilistic concept. Essentially, the in- formation of an object can be regarded as the amount of uncertainty reduced by pre- senting the object (Brockett et al., 1995 Bruner, 1984). Applying this theory to the branding context, a brand's value rests on its ability to reduce consumer's uncer- tainty about product performance, the more the better, which is consistent with the findings in the marketing literature (e.g., Hoyer and Brown, 1990 Keller, 1993). Integrating Stern's (2006) classification scheme and the information theory, a good brand name would embody information along one or more of the four dimensions so as to provide useful information to reduce consumer uncertainty in brand choices. Past research has shown that brand's uncertainty reduction effect exists not only in the absence of any other prod- uct cues, but also even after product trials (e.g., Klink, 2000 Srirdvasan and Till, 2002). Effective brand names Albeit its importance, research examining properties of effective brand names is lim- ited (Klink, 2001). One of the initial studies took place more than 30 years ago when Peterson and Ross (1972) investigated whether specific fabricated names were more readily identified with certain prod- uct categories. They concluded that one- syllable words and plural forms are more "remindful" of cereal, but singular word forms are associated more with laundry de- tergent. This early study triggered an in- terest in brand names that have looked at various issues associated with branding. Oftentimes studies examine the relation- ship between brand names, awareness, and brand equity because the name of a brand is often its core indicator (Cobb-Walgren, Ruble, and Donthu, 1995 Louviere and Johnson, 1988 MacLachlan and Mulhern, 1991 Sharkey, 1989 Washburn and Plank, 2002 Yovovich, 1988). While effective brand names can enhance awareness and create a favorable image for a product, ineffective brand names can severely hinder a prod- uct's success. For example, one of the most notorious failures in the automotive his- tory, the Ford Edsel, has been attributed to a poor brand name (Klink, 2001). A brand name identifies the source of a product and differentiates the product from its competitors' products. Thus, an effec- tive brand can enhance demand for a product. First, brand awareness helps con- sumers identify products with popular brand names. Furthermore, brand reputa- tion can serve as a proxy for quality when consumers have insufficient information about a product's quality. Sullivan (1998) examined how the image of an automo- bile brand affects demand. She looked specifically at twin brands���products made in the same plant and having essentially the same physical attributes, but different brand names���and concluded that con- sumers are willing to spend extra for more prestigious brand names when products are the same. For example, many consum- ers are willing to pay more for a Mitsu- bishi than a physically identical Dodge. However, twins are not perceived as per- fect substitutes due to pricing differences. March 2 0 08 JOUBnilL OF HDUERTISinG RESEIIRCH 1 4 9
CREATING NEW BRAND NAMES One of the foremost contemporary au- thorities on brand management and spe- cifically brand naming is Kevin Keller, author of Strategic Brand Management (2003). Keller offered some recommenda- tions for choosing a brand name. He sug- gested that brand names should be easy to pronounce to obtain important re- peated word-of-mouth exposure that helps to build strong memory links. This affects entry into consideration sets and the will- ingness of consumers to order or request the brand orally. Rather than risk the em- barrassment of mispronouncing a hard-to- pronounce name, consumers may decide to avoid pronouncing it altogether. Keller further recommends that brand names should be familiar and meaningful so that individuals can tap into existing knowl- edge structures. He advocates that to help establish strong brand-category links and aid brand recall, the brand name should be chosen to suggest the product or ser- vice category, such as Juicyjuice 100 per- cent fruit juices and Ticketron ticket selling service. Keller also recommends that brand names be different, distinctive, and un- usual. The distinctiveness of a brand name is a function of its inherent uniqueness as well as its uniqueness in the context of other competing brands in the product category. Finally, Keller recommends that the brand name may be chosen to re- inforce an important attribute or benefit association that comprises its product po- sitioning (e.g., DieHard batteries. Mop 'N Glow floor wax. Cling Free static buildup remover). This is encouraged because the brand name is a shortened form of com- munication and thus explicit and implicit meanings that consumers extract from the name can be crucial to success of the product or service. Robertson (1989) advocates that brand name should be assessed on two basic dimensions: the inherent ability of the name to be encoded into, retained in, and retrieved from memory easily, and the degree to which the name supports or enhances the planned strategic position- ing or image of the product. Like Keller, Robertson notes that there are several brand characteristics that can increase the possibility of recall by consumers. He ad- vocates that a brand name should be a verbal or sound associate of its product class. It should elicit a mental image. Using an emotional word as a brand name is advocated when the product category is an emotional one. A brand name should make use of the repetitive sounds gener- ated by alliteration, assonance, conso- nance, rhyme, and rhythm. In addition, a brand name should make use of mor- phemes (i.e., the smallest unit that relates sound and meaning) and phonemes (i.e., abstract categories that allow us to group together subsets of speech sounds). Oth- ers have gone a step further by recom- mending that marketers assign semantic meaning by placing entire words or mor- phemes in the brand name (Keller, Heck- ler, and Houston, 1998). However, use of words and morphemes may detract from the distinctiveness of the name (Klink, 2001). Many of the aforementioned studies have been normative in nature (Kohli and La- Bahn, 1997). They are often derived from advertising agency experiences. Experimen- tal studies are needed to test these principles. Memory and the context theory of memory retrieval Memory is a reconstructive act in which the act of remembering is activated by some form of cue. This means that an initial cue about something leads to the recollection of more specific memories. Consider a question regarding the last clothes you purchased in a store. You may retrieve information about what you typically initially do when entering a store that will lead to recalling more detailed memories. Besides the basic reconstruc- tive nature of memory, another important property of memory is its reliance on "schema" (or scripts)���a model of the world based on past experience that can be used as a basis for remembering events. From the previous scenario, general knowl- edge about what tends to happen in stores provides a framework within which one could retrieve specific facts. Schema re- duces the amount of information that an individual needs to store away. So the same general schema about stores can be used when recalling information about different stores. Hence, an individual only needs to store away those aspects of a clothes shopping experience that differen- tiate it from other clothes shopping expe- riences (Parkin, 1999). Past experience is only part of the story when explaining memory retrieval. Peo- ple tend to remember schema-relevant information and forget irrelevant informa- tion (Hastie, 1981). The context of mem- ory retrieval is consistent with this claim. This theory maintains that retrieval of in- formation from memory is influenced by the context in which the retrieval takes place. McNamara and Diwadkar (1996) support this notion and point out that in many cognitive tasks, ranging from nam- ing to item recognition, responses are af- fected by context. They advocate that people recognize a word faster when it is preceded by a word from the same sen- tence or proposition than when it is pre- ceded by a word from a different sentence or proposition. This is referred to as "as- sociative priming." They concluded that "... retrieval of information from mem- ory is influenced by the context in which the retrieval takes place. The archetype of contextual effects in memory retrieval may be associative priming" (McNamara and Diwadkar, 1996, p. 891). To understand the context of memory retrieval, it is necessary to explain the 1 5 0 JOUROHL or HDUERTISIOG RESERRCR March 2 0 08