Mixed messages in brand names: Separating the impacts of letter shape from sound symbolism

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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. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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