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Wednesday, 07 September 2016 12:13

The Bouba/Kiki Effect and Your Business Name

By - Michael Rader

The abilities of the human brain are infinite and amazing. In fact, even after centuries of scientific research, there is still much we do not know about the gray matter. One of the most interesting topics of recent research involves the way the brain connects images and sound.

For almost a hundred years, scientists have been working with a phenomenon called the Bouba/Kiki Effect. First introduced in 1929 by German/American scientist Wolfgang Kohler, the Bouba/Kiki Effect involves the non-arbitrary mapping between speech sounds and the visual shape of objects. Sound complicated? It really isn’t.

The experiment

The experiment: Kohler presented a control group with the following images.

bouba kiki

He then asked the group which image they thought was called a “takete” and which was a “baluba.” Virtually all of the participants labeled the shape with sharp points and clearly defined lines “takete” and the shape with rounded edges “baluba.” When the experiment was repeated by American scientists in 2001, they used the names “bouba” and “kiki.” Despite these changes, however, the results were nearly identical.

What do the results mean?

The results of the tests told researchers a great deal about the associations our brains make in terms of visual imagery and language. It is believed that one of the explanations of the Bouba/Kiki Effect is the way the human mouth forms certain words.

When saying the word “bouba,” for instance, the mouth makes a rounded shape. The brain then registers that shape and associates it with the visual image that is more rounded. The word, “kiki,” on the other hand, is made with sharp consonant sounds, much like the sharp images in the first image. Our brain subconsciously associates the linguistics of each word with the image that is similar.

What does this mean for you?

The Bouba/Kiki Effect, and other studies like it, can help you as you choose a name for your business. Ask yourself what kind of associations you want your customers to draw? A name that includes sharp consonant sounds will invariably be given similar connotations to those given to the star-like image above. Think about Brandroot listed names like “Otex” or “Ivon.” Both of these names contain strong consonants and would likely conjure up images of a company that is straight-forward and based on concrete logic.

The names “Sorano” and “Goey,” on the other hand, would be associated in much the same way as image number two above. Both names are smooth and flow off the tongue. These names would most likely be associated with companies that are flexible and based on more than rigidity and logic.

Use this scientific evidence to your benefit

Regardless of the type of company you have, Brandroot has a name that is perfect for you. Our creative team meticulously chooses names that will give you the options you are looking for. Although we are most certainly not scientists, we make it our business to stay up to date on current trends and research. We share this type of information with you so that you are able to make a naming decision that gives your company the best chance for success. Whether you are looking for a “bouba” or a “kiki” type of name, let us help you. Your success is our success.

Last modified on Wednesday, 07 September 2016 12:33

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.


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