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Phonetic symbolism and children's brand name preferences

Stacey Baxter (Newcastle Business School, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia)
Tina M. Lowrey (Department of Marketing, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 1 November 2011




Children are bombarded by branded communication every day. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the role that particular linguistic devices play in communication, and whether this process differs between children and adults. One such device is phonetic symbolism, which has been shown to lead adults to prefer brand names whose phonetic attributes match product and/or brand features.


Three experiments were undertaken to examine children's (six to 12 years of age) preference for phonetically manipulated brand names. Experiment 1 replicates findings in previous research showing that preference for a particular brand name within a single product category is dependent on how the brand is described. Experiment 2 extends this research across product categories that are expected to lead to differential brand name preference (based on product features). Finally, experiment 3 investigates the interaction between pure phonetic symbolism and semantic information.


Children show similar patterns of brand name preference (with some age differences that could be attributable to developmental stages), and that they link particular sounds with specific brand/product attributes.

Practical implications

This research shows that when selecting an inventive and distinct brand name, consideration could be given to the relationship between vowel sounds and brand characteristics. The authors believe that the findings are of importance to marketers as they consider different approaches to the naming of new brands.


This is the first set of experiments to investigate the effects of phonetic symbolism on brand name preference utilising a children's sample.



Baxter, S. and Lowrey, T.M. (2011), "Phonetic symbolism and children's brand name preferences", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 28 No. 7, pp. 516-523.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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