What's in a name? A lot, says new research about the effect of one's own name on consumer behavior

November 14, 2005

New research from the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Research reveals that we pick certain brand names for an entirely narcissistic reason - because they contain letters of the alphabet that are in our own name. The theory is an extension of the 'name letter effect,' which has demonstrated that people indeed like the letters in their name more so than others letters. The current research extends this phenomenon to consumerism and defines 'name letter branding,' which shows a connection between a consumer's name and the brands one chooses.

"In our experiments, respondents were more likely to choose a brand, when its name included name letters than when it did not," write C. Miguel Brendl (INSEAD Social Science Research Center, Austria).

The authors argue that the effect of name letter branding exhibits itself most readily under particular circumstances. In these cases, consumers might be responding to self-esteem issues or to a more tangible immediate need for a product. The issue of self-esteem is of particular interest to the researchers, who hypothesize that phenomenons similar to name letter branding might also be in play.

"We found that name letter branding influences choices only under one of two conditions," write the authors. "Either consumers have a need to enhance their self-esteem because of a threatening situation. For instance, a sophisticated restaurant could pose such a threat. Or consumers have to have a product relevant need (e.g., need to drink when choosing a beverage)."
-end-
Brendl, C. Miguel, et al. "Name Letter Branding: Valence Transfers when Product Specific Needs are Active." Journal of Consumer Research, Dec 2005.

University of Chicago Press Journals

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