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Positioning products through names: effect of sound symbolism on perception of products with blended brand names

Sunny Vijay Arora (Department of Marketing, S P Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai, India)
Arti D. Kalro (Shailesh J Mehta School of Management, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai, India)
Dinesh Sharma (Shailesh J Mehta School of Management, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai, India)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 19 October 2022

Issue publication date: 1 March 2023

717

Abstract

Purpose

Managers prefer semantic imbeds in brand names, but extant literature has primarily studied fictitious names for their sound-symbolic perceptions. This paper aims to explore sound-symbolic perceptions of products with blended brand names (BBNs), formed with at least one semantic and one nonsemantic component. Unlike most extant literature, this study not only estimates the effect of vowels and consonants individually on product perceptions but also of their combinations. The boundary condition for this effect is examined by classifying products by their categorization and attributes by their abstractness.

Design/methodology/approach

Through a within-subject experiment, this paper tested perceptions of products with BBNs having high-/low-frequency sounds. A mixed-design experiment followed with sound frequency, product-level categorization and attributes’ abstractness as predictor variables.

Findings

For BBNs, vowel sounds convey brand meaning better than the combinations of vowel and consonant sounds – and these convey brand meaning better than consonant sounds. Differences in consumers’ perceptions of products with BBNs occur when the degree of attributes’ abstractness matches product-level categorization, such as when concrete attributes match subordinate-level categorization.

Practical implications

Brand managers/strategists can communicate product positioning (attribute-based) through BBNs created specifically for product categories and product types.

Originality/value

This research presents a comparative analysis across vowels, consonants and their combinations on consumers’ perceptions of products with BBNs. Manipulation of names’ length and position of the sound-symbolic imbed in the BBN proffered additional contributions. Another novelty is the interaction effect of product categorization levels and attributes’ abstractness on sound-symbolic perception.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to the editors and the anonymous reviewers for their invaluable feedback and inputs on this article. The authors are also grateful to Prof. Shivganesh Bhargava, Prof. Shishir K. Jha, Prof. Vaijayanthi Sarma and Prof. Sanjeev Sabnis at Indian Institute of Technology Bombay for their expert guidance at various stages of this research. The authors also express their gratitude to Shruti Trehan, Vartika Chaudhary, Vartika Srivastava, Preeti Virdi, Kalpak Kulkarni, Vishwas Raichur, and Siddhartha Sarkar for their support on this research project. This research was supported and funded by S. P. Jain Institute of Management and Research and Shailesh J Mehta School of Management, IIT Bombay.

Citation

Arora, S.V., Kalro, A.D. and Sharma, D. (2023), "Positioning products through names: effect of sound symbolism on perception of products with blended brand names", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 32 No. 3, pp. 361-378. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPBM-12-2021-3794

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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