Friday, June 17, 2005

Why off-beat product names appeal

A recent Wharton School study examined off-beat (and irrelevant) product names.
In an initial experiment testing flavor names, 100 undergraduates were asked to complete an unrelated questionnaire on a computer. After finishing the questionnaire at the computer, the students were told they could take some jellybeans. The jellybeans were in six cups each with a sign attached listing the flavor. Half the subjects saw jellybean names that were common descriptives: blueberry blue, cherry red, chocolate brown, marshmallow white, tangerine orange and watermelon green. The other half saw flavors with ambiguous names: Moody blue, Florida red, Mississippi brown, white Ireland, Passion orange and Monster green. Researchers observed that the less common names were more popular.

[Marketing professor Barbara E.] Kahn says the use of odd names seems to work best in products that rely on the senses, such as food or fashion, and would probably not work in a high-stakes product category such as healthcare or financial services. And at some point, she says, the advantage of an odd or unexpected name will wear off. "Over time, people get used to it. I don't think people have this reaction to Gatorade Frost anymore," she says. "It isn't an effect that's going to last forever unless the company keeps coming up with new names."

The study examined when off-beat names work, and why consumers like them. The point of all this is to reduce marketing storytelling to just a name. But here's a though: if everone uses off-beat names, will they just become "normal"? At that point will consumers prefer informative names because they are uncommon?

Found at Seth's Blog.

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