Which one of the below shapes is booba and which one is kiki?
According to Wolfgang Köhler’s “booba/kiki effect” study, 95% to 98% of people choose “kiki” for the sharp, angular shape and “booba” (or “bouba”) for the soft, rounded shape. Interestingly, recent work by Daphne Maurer and colleagues has shown that even children as young as 2.5 (too young to read) show this effect. Now, that is compelling. “But, how is that related to branding?” you may ask. Let’s find out.
During naming projects, consultants and clients focus on semantic associations. That makes sense because at the end of the day brands must be meaningful to enjoy a long life. However, there are also quite some subliminal, non-semantic ways in which words could convey both meaning and distinctiveness. Enter phonetic symbolism.
Phonemes are the smallest unit of sound (e.g. the sound of letter p) and form the fundamental building blocks of language. What’s truly fascinating is that countless studies prove that phonetic symbolism (i.e. sounds conveying meaning) does exist. That’s why the sense of sounds should be taken into consideration during naming projects, especially for made-up words, for phonetic symbolism loses its effect when a word already has a meaning. For instance, for bottled water, an overtly-meaningful word like Pure could be better than a subliminally-meaningful, invented word like “Silsh,” which sounds highly fluid.
Phonetic symbolism may be more important when naming an organization (or a service) as opposed to a product. We evaluate, after all, goods by their intrinsic (size, color) as well as extrinsic cues (price and name.) Given that organizations and services are abstract, they do not have intrinsic cues. In the absence of built-in signals, customers must make sense of extrinsic ones, and that’s where phonetic symbolism comes handy.
Let’s see the power of phonetic symbolism in action. Try to answer the below questions. If you feel like, 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|