Why a Tsiischili roller coaster ride is scarier than a Chunta: A question of naming ~ Brand Mix

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Why a Tsiischili roller coaster ride is scarier than a Chunta: A question of naming

Photo: Roller Coaster - Speed Mouse #1 by Stéfan (Flickr)

Do people think that a roller coaster ride called Tsiichilli would be more exciting, more adventurous and more likely to make them sick than the much easier-to-pronounce Chunta? Yes, they do.

Do companies with easy-to-pronounce ticker symbols (e.g. KAR) do better than companies with difficult-to-pronounce ticker symbols (e.g. RDO) in the first day (and even year) of trading after an IPO? Once again, yes they do.

Earlier this week, I wrote about the work of Song & Schwarz who have been looking at the influence of what they call "seemingly irrelevant" things like print font on our perceptions and behaviors. Complicated fonts tax our limited processing abilities, reduce our processing fluency and make us think that whatever is being described is more difficult than we would if it was presented in an easier-to-read font.

Same for names. In the second half of their article, Song & Schwarz describe one of their experiments where they tested made-up names for food additives. The hard-to-pronounce "Hnegripitrom" was perceived to be harmful but also more novel than the easier-to-pronounce "Magnalroxate." The Tsiichilli ride was scarier than the Chunta and a basket of stocks of companies with easy-to-pronounce ticker symbols outperformed a basket of companies with trickier symbols.

This strong link between fluency, familiarity and risk perception has practical implications. As the authors point out, in product domains where safety is important (like food and insurance), there should be a strong preference for easy-to-pronounce names that can be reassuringly, easily processed. On the other hand, in extreme sports like bungee jumping or wherever people derive pleasure from the risks involved, hard-to-pronounce names will add to the promise of adventure and excitement.

One final tip from this article: Things that are easier-to-read receive less scrutiny from a reader than things are difficult to read. Product manufacturers tempted to hide deceptive information in the fine print actually make it more likely that the deception will be noticed. For those going down that track, better to put the deception right out there in front of people, in an easy to read format for them not to see.


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brand strategy said...

LOL, and there are businesses who put in all the letters of the alphabet in the business' name where nobody can even pronounce.

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