A rose by any other name would not smell as sweet to Rachel, and definitely not to Rosemary ~ Brand Mix

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A rose by any other name would not smell as sweet to Rachel, and definitely not to Rosemary

A few years ago, by what I considered at the time to be an interesting fluke, I, Martin John Bishop, managed the MJB coffee brand. According to new work reported in Kellogg Insight, this was not a fluke. It was destiny!

In yet another example that we humans are just completely hopeless really, a team of marketing academics has shown that your name can influence your everyday choices and even life-shaping decisions. As Professor Miguel Brendl, one of the authors of the research says: “It’s a bizarre idea, but your liking for the letters of your name, which is really driven by your liking for yourself, might spill over to objects and influence your choices.”

A series of four studies show that it is not a coincidence that Marks and Marshas prefer a Mars bar to a Snickers bar when stressed or hungry or that women named Louise are disproportionately likely to move to Louisiana. The phenomenon is being called name-letter branding.

The theory: The idea is that positive self-esteem translates into people's preference for letters that are in their name. When asked to rate their liking of letters in the alphabet, people consistently chose letters in their own name. This letter-liking can be strong enough that it can transfer to objects that include the same letters. The transfer emerges under two main conditions: when people experience a strong need for the product or when they need to boost their self-esteem.

The research: In one experiment, people's self-esteem was threatened by asking them to write about an aspect of themselves they would like to change. This threat made people look for ways to feel more positive about themselves and this led 64% of those tested to prefer a tea whose name shared the first three letters of their name (e.g. Jonathans preferred Jonoki to Elioki). In another experiment, the researchers found that preferences for the name-letter brand were boosted when respondents were prompted to rely on their intuition rather than reasons.

The implications: “Even though, as you can imagine, the name-letter effect is not very strong and only works when people trust their feelings,” says Brendl, “it can have interesting implications for managers. For instance, it can be applied when choosing a name for a product aimed at a well-defined segment of customers, such as early adopters. It could also be useful for direct mailers, who can use different names to sign their sales pitches.” And, as Brendle points out, “name-letter branding should be particularly relevant when dealing with business categories related to ego, such as beauty, sports, and luxury products.”

As I read this research, I thought about a recent post from Landor colleague, Mich Bergesen (note the initials) talking about the "i-convention" and the trend towards everything being named "i"-this and "i"-that. The convention continues to be popular even though it's already past what may have been thought to be a sensible limit because it so perfectly expresses human nature. "No matter what era we were born in, it seems we are all part of the iGeneration—it truly is all about us." Instead of name-letter branding, the i-phenomenon took it up one level.

Meanwhile, back in the Bishop household, which still has some MJB golf balls, coffee cups and other tchochkes sales-driving premiums from the coffee management era, this research may explain our rediscovered appetite for fondue. It's made by Emmi, all the letters of our 6-year old daughter's name.
Research Source:
Brendl, C. Miguel, Amitava Chattopadhyay, Brett W. Pelham, and Mauricio Carvallo. 2005. “Name-Letter Branding: Valence Transfer When Product Specific Needs Are Active.” Journal of Consumer Research, 32: 405-415.


ARR said...

Hmmm...what does it say about my husband that his best friend and wife (2 separate people) both share his initials? Further, these same two people have the same 3 initials... ARR. Is it destiny? Fate? I choose to think so!

Martin Bishop said...

Definitely destiny!

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