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Monday, 11 August 2014 7:39

The Power of Sound Symbolism in Your Business Name

By - Michael Rader

Such is the case with business names. As with the Haagen Dazs commercial, certain sounds inspire specific emotions that make them more prone to be liked, remembered, and shared. Those who watched the Limoncello commercial likely had the product’s name embedded in their memory banks because of its tasty sound. The right business name can produce the same result for you.

The symbolism of sound has been studied for decades. The premise that sounds have the ability to elicit certain emotions is not new. What is new, however, is marketing’s renewed focus on the power of sounds. Companies, like Haagen Dasz, that are able to tap into that inherent power are the ones that achieve maximum brand awareness. In 2003, Vilayanur Ramachandran discussed his research conducted in regards to the relationship between words and neuroscience. He believed that people experience sounds in terms of colors or tastes. His theories explain how sounds can be metaphors for images, and how people make unconscious connections based on the make-up of the sounds. In other words, without knowing it, people associate certain words with corresponding attributes.

Think about the words we commonly use in everyday life. Which ones do you inherently associate with light or dark, strong or weak, sharp or dull? Advertisers that understand these connections are the ones that effectively market their products. The same goes for business names. What connections does your name elicit? Are they positive or negative? Do they inspire confidence or doubt? Every name corresponds to some thought or emotion. It is important to understand exactly what your name says about your company.

In his Little Book of Language, David Crystal discusses the concept of sound symbolism. “It’s interesting how some names sound good and some sound bad,” he explains, giving the example that the names with soft consonants such as [m], [n], and [l] tend to sound nicer than names with hard consonants such as [k] and [g]. Crystal broke down ten specific sound effects that directly affect the way sounds are interpreted.

  1. Alliteration: The repetition of an initial consonant sound, as in the company name “Best Buy.”
  2. Assonance: The repetition of identical or similar vowel (or rhyming), as in the yogurt company “Tutti Frutti.”
  3. Homoioteleuton: Similar sound endings to words, phrases, or sentences--such as the repeated -nz sound in the advertising slogan "Beans Means Heinz."
  4. Consonance: Broadly, the repetition of consonant sounds; more specifically, the repetition of the final consonant sounds of accented syllables or important words, as in “Black and Decker.”
  5. Homophones: Homophones are two (or more) words--such as knew and new--that are pronounced the same but differ in meaning, origin, and often spelling, as in the name
  6. Oronym: A sequence of words (for example, "the stuff he knows") that sounds the same as a different sequence of words ("the stuffy nose").
  7. Reduplicative: A word (such as mama, pooh-pooh, or chit-chat) that contains two identical or very similar parts, as in the product name “Tic-Tac.”
  8. Onomatopoeia: The use of words (such as the Snap, Crackle, and Pop! of Kellogg's Rice Krispies) that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to.
  9. Echo Word: A word or phrase (such as buzz and cock a doodle doo) that imitates the sound associated with the object or action it refers to.
  10. Interjection: A short utterance, such as ah, d'oh, or yo, which usually expresses emotion and is capable of standing alone.

Understanding the inherent power of words and sounds will help you select a business name that creates the images and connotations you are looking for. Customers automatically make certain connections based on the symbolism of sounds. The success of your business name depends on your ability to understand that symbolism and use it to your advantage.

Choosing a business name is one of the most important decisions you will make and can have a drastic impact on your business’ future. Fortunately, you don’t have to make that decision alone. Brandroot has carefully selected names that capture the power of sound symbolism and contain the inherent power you are looking for. All you have to do is choose the one that is right for you.

Last modified on Monday, 30 November -0001 12:00

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 .com domain name marketplace. He currently lives in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii where he operates the business and authors a blog dedicated to naming and brand name establishment.