UTSA study analyzes effects of word sounds on children's brand preferences

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(Sept. 25, 2012) -- Tina M. Lowrey, UTSA professor of marketing in the College of Business, and Stacey Baxter, a University of Newcastle professor, have completed research that suggests that the sound of a word influences children's brand preferences. The article, "Phonetic Symbolism and Children's Brand Name Preferences," was published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing.

Three experiments were conducted with children age five to 12 years old to examine their preferences for a brand name based on sounds. Experiment one examined their preference for a brand name based on the words used to describe the product. Experiment two extended this research across product categories to look at brand name preferences related to a product's features. Finally, experiment three investigated the interaction between pure phonetic symbolism, or the sound of a word, and its actual meaning.

The research suggested that children make specific associations between sounds and brand/product attributes. The findings also showed that children prefer brand names where the vowel sound is similar to the product's attributes. Front vowel sounds, vowel sounds made when the tongue is positioned in the front of the mouth, were preferred for products perceived to be small and light.

It also was determined that back vowel sounds, vowel sounds made when the tongue is positioned in the back of the mouth, were preferred for products perceived as big and heavy. The researchers suggest that marketers should consider these relationships between vowel sounds and a brand's characteristics when choosing a brand name.

"By conducting these in-depth studies regarding the correlation between a word's sounds and children's brand preferences, we hope to have an impact on the process by which marketers choose inventive and distinct brand names," said Lowrey.

Nationally ranked and recognized, the UTSA College of Business is accredited by AACSB International, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. It is one of the 40 largest business schools in the nation with 6,000 enrolled students and 37 graduate and undergraduate business programs. The college is dedicated to raising its academic profile to become one of the best business schools recognized for developing "Knowledge for a New World." For more information, call 210-458-4313.