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Processing Fluency and Its Role in Your Business Name

Sunday, 17 November 2013 13:24 Written by 

Bayerische Motoren Werke sells millions of products every day, yet few people recognize the German car manufacturer without the familiar “BMW” attached. The fact is, when it comes to business names, simplicity wins over complexity every time as people respond better to concepts that are easier to understand and remember. Processing fluency, or the ease with which something is processed, plays a critical role in how consumers understand, recall and use your business name. Here’s why optimizing fluency with a unique brandable name for your business is always a good strategy.

Complexity Alienates Users

The human brain naturally prefers the path of least resistance. Not that we’re lazy, but when it comes to processing information, comprehension is generally more successful when concepts are simple and easy to digest. Whether we realize it or not, complexity alienates users. And that’s true if you’re talking about a new software program, a book or something as common as a business name. Even highly trained experts with vast technical knowledge look for the lowest common denominator when trying to grasp information. It just makes sense. Modern consumers experience information overload on a daily basis and complexity creates distance.

Processing Fluency Affects Value Perception

There is research to suggest that those things that are familiar to us are perceived as more valuable than those that are unfamiliar or more difficult to grasp. For example, when given the choice, most people place a higher value on brandable, unique and meaningless names over those that are descriptive and overly complicated. The simple truth is, BMW is easy to remember, easy to understand and quite frankly, brilliant.  It’s clear that Bayerische Motoren Werke makes a fantastic product, but the higher value is given to BMW, essentially meaningless letters without knowledge of the car company.

Word Retrieval Fluency and Building Your Brand: Why it’s Important

For consumers, being able to process a business name easily is a critical step in interacting with a product or service. But even more important is having the ability to recall that name quickly, also known as retrieval fluency. Easy retrieval is a compelling argument for employing a unique, brandable business name over one that is more complex and descriptive. In fact, names with fewer syllables and letters are the easiest to retrieve and build better name recognition and loyalty. The bottom line? The faster your name can be recalled, the more likely it is your products or services will be sought after - and that impacts your bottom line.

Towards Super Brand Status

Short, brandable names also have the added benefit of potentially taking on “super-brand” status, which are names that become adopted by the public as common terms for certain products. For example, when you think about a heated pool of massaging water perfect for relieving aches and pains, you may think “Jacuzzi”. In reality, Jacuzzi is a brand of hot tub and not the generic name for the product. Nevertheless, folks rely on retrieval fluency, which turns up Jacuzzi. Good for Jacuzzi? You bet.

Why do some names move on to become household names? Because it’s easier for folks to retrieve snappy, short names that are unique. Brandable names with just a few syllables are memorable and easy short cuts for the products and services they need. While not every business enjoys the benefit of having its name elevated to household status, the odds of that happening with a unique, brandable name are much better than with a long, descriptive name.

In some cases, trade-marked names have gone on to become so popular that the brand was forced to resign its trademark status. “Aspirin” was originally trademarked by Bayer until it was forced after World War I as part of the Treaty of Versailles to forego trademark status. “Yo-yo” was trademarked by Duncan until 1965 when it too was deemed generic. Other examples like these are Popsicle, Dumpster, Chapstick and Velcro. The point is, sometimes, the right brandable name can be so perfect (easy to process, retrieve and associate with) that it’s no longer a brand, but a term used to describe something of value to consumers. This illustrates the incredible power of an invented name for a product or service.

Top performing brands have high processing and retrieval fluency, making them easy to understand and recall.  Choosing a brandable business name that resonates, is familiar and can be recalled easily is a better strategy than trying to dazzle consumers with an overly descriptive or complex name. After all, marketing experts agree, when it comes to your business name, “It’s always better to have customers nodding their heads instead of scratching them”.  

Last modified on Sunday, 17 November 2013 19:53
Michael Rader

With over ten years in web development and design, Michael Rader has expertise and technical know-how. But more than a skilled technician, he is an entrepreneur and innovator who helps startup’s and new businesses identify and define their future with a unique, brandable business name. Michael Rader is the founder and CEO of Brandroot®, a leading dot-com domain name marketplace. He currently lives in San Diego, California where he runs Brandroot® and authors a blog dedicated to naming and brand name establishment.

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