Which one of these shapes is Booba, and which one is Kiki?
According to Wolfgang Köhler’s Booba/Kiki effect study, roughly 95% of people choose “kiki” for the sharp, angular shape and “booba” for the soft, rounded one. Even children as young as 2.5 demonstrated the Booba/Kiki effect. “But, how is that related to branding?” you may ask. Let’s find out.
Usually, when naming a new brand, we first try to find a name that means something, ideally a metaphor. For instance, Nike (the Goddess of Victory) is a great name for a sports apparel company, just like Oracle is a fitting one for a database management firm.
However, such names are hard to find and even harder (much harder!) to trademark. So, these days, we often invent words, not unlike Xerox or Kodak. There is, however, a method to the madness, for we could still convey meaning subliminally. Enter: phonetic symbolism.
Phonemes are the smallest units of sound (e.g. the sound of the letter p or s.) They form the fundamental building blocks of language. What’s truly fascinating, though, is that each sound means something. That’s why we must consider the meaning of a sound when inventing a brand name.
Here is a caveat: For words that already have a meaning, phonetic symbolism’s effect is minuscule. Apparently, semantic meaning trumps phonetic symbolism. For instance, for a bottled water brand, “Pure” (a name that has a meaning) is a better fit than “Silsh” (an invented word), even though the latter sounds way more fluid.
Arguably, phonetic symbolism is more critical for service firms than for products. Why? Because we can evaluate the size, shape, colour and price of a product. On the other hand, services are abstract. you can’t get cues about their size, shape, or colour. Without such built-in signals, customers have to make sense somehow, and that’s where phonetic symbolism comes in handy.
Let’s see the power of phonetic symbolism in action. Try to answer the below questions. If you feel like it, ask your friends and family and share your feedback with me. I will gladly publish them here!
|Which table is larger?||Mil or Mal|
|Which ice cream is creamier?||Frish or Frosh|
|Which motorcycle is faster?||Valp or Galp|
|Which one is more alive?||Preff or Prezz|
|Which one is lighter?||Simi or Somo|
|Which one is smaller?||Tok or Gok|