The Success of Off-Beat Product Names

It turns out that offbeat product names could boost your sales, even if the name isn't that descriptive.

In a paper titled, "Shades of Meaning: The Effect of Color and Flavor Names on Consumer Choice" — published in the current issue of the Journal of Consumer Research — Wharton marketing professor Barbara E. Kahn and Elizabeth G. Miller, a marketing professor at Boston College, found that consumers react positively to imaginative names even if they are not particularly descriptive. The research may have strong implications for Internet marketers whose customers cannot see a product first-hand and tend to rely more on written descriptions when making purchases, says Kahn.

In studies of jellybeans and colored sweaters, the researchers found an overall positive reaction to names that gave little information about what a flavor or product color was really like, such as Millennium orange or Snuggly white. "People jumped to the conclusion that the marketer must be telling this information for some reason," says Kahn. "They said, 'Even though I don't understand the reason, it has to be something good because marketers wouldn't tell me something that isn't good.' When they stopped and spent time on the name the assumption was that it was positive."

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