Mixed Messages in Brand Names: Separating the Impacts of Letter Shape from Sound Symbolism

Psychology and Marketing, Vol. 28, No. 7, pp. 749-762, 2011

Posted: 2 May 2010 Last revised: 5 Aug 2011

See all articles by John R. Doyle

John R. Doyle

Cardiff University - Cardiff Business School

Paul A. Bottomley

Cardiff University - Cardiff Business School

Date Written: April 29, 2010

Abstract

Recent work suggests that sound symbolism in brand names conveys marketing–relevant messages. However, if the customer sees a brand name rather than hears it, visual characteristics of the letters may convey messages of their own. These may conflict with or reinforce the message conveyed by sound symbolism of the name. Study 1 replicates the essence of the sound symbolism effect claimed in recent work. Study 2 shows that the visual characteristics of letters provide a plausible alternative explanation of these findings. Study 3 manipulates the visual characteristics in the brand name letters and reverses the previously found direction of sound symbolism effects. The findings suggest that powerful visual messages are present in brand names, and that because of confounding, the contribution sound symbolism makes to the brand name may not always act as thought.

Keywords: typeface, font, letter shape, sound symbolism, brand name, confounding

Suggested Citation

Doyle, John and Bottomley, Paul A., Mixed Messages in Brand Names: Separating the Impacts of Letter Shape from Sound Symbolism (April 29, 2010). Psychology and Marketing, Vol. 28, No. 7, pp. 749-762, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1597869

John Doyle (Contact Author)

Cardiff University - Cardiff Business School ( email )

Aberconway Building
Colum Drive
Cardiff, CF10 3EU
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/carbs/faculty/doylejr/index.html

Paul A. Bottomley

Cardiff University - Cardiff Business School ( email )

Aberconway Building
Colum Drive
Cardiff, CF10 3EU
United Kingdom

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