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Naming Steve Rivkin

Brand Naming: Achieving Higher Recall

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In the grand old comedy “The Sunshine Boys,” two aging vaudevillians are discussing comedy itself. One informs the other that words with K and P sounds are funny. Therefore, words such as chicken, pickle and porcupine are funny. But other letters and words – horse, lettuce and dog – are not.

What’s going on here? Language experts will tell you that we just react differently to certain sounds.

And the letters those old-timers were discussing? They were “plosives.” A plosive is a bit of language that pops out of your mouth and draws attention to itself. A plosive is a “stopper” that makes us pause for emphasis when we say it.

The letters B, C, D, K, P and T are all plosives.

Which is why someone once said that the old advertising agency name Batten Barton Durstine and Osborn (BBD&O) sounds “like a trunk bouncing down a flight of stairs.”

What’s especially interesting is that brand names beginning with plosives have higher recall scores than non-plosive names. Several studies of top brand names have made that point. Examples: Bic, Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, Kodak, Pioneer, etc.

And a disproportionate percentage of brands today start with the same three plosive letters: C, K and P. Bottom line: It makes linguistic sense to start a brand name with a positive, potent plosive to achieve greater recall with consumers.

Contributed to BSI by: Steve Rivkin

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