Chooze yor brand name very carefully to avoid alienating consumers

By our News Team | 2023

Study finds that using unusual spellings for a brand name to make it seem cool and trendy could backfire – and make it appear less sincere.

Choosing a brand name for a new product or service is one of the most important marketing decisions a company makes. 

In recent years, brand strategists have recommended companies use unusual spellings of otherwise familiar words – for example ‘Krispy Kreme’ (doughnuts) rather than ‘Crispy Crème’ or ‘Lyft’ (ride-hailing) instead of ‘Lift’.

Brand Names

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

There are some advantages that come from using an unconventionally spelled brand name, which explains why companies often select them. However, little is known about how this strategy impacts consumers’ beliefs about the brand and, ultimately, their willingness to support it.

New research from the University of Notre Dame in the US finds that, in general, consumers are less likely to support uniquely spelled unfamiliar brands, compared with those that use the conventional spelling.

The study, entitled ‘Choozing’ the Best Spelling: Consumer Response to Unconventionally Spelled Brand Names’ is soon to be published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Marketing from lead author John Costello, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Notre Dame, along with Jesse Walker and Rebecca Walker Reczek from Ohio State University.

“Consumers perceive unconventionally spelled names as a persuasion tactic or a marketing gimmick, leading them to view the brand as less sincere,” said Costello. “Our studies suggest that while marketers may choose unconventional spellings for new brands with the goal of positively influencing consumers’ perceptions, doing so may backfire.”

However, the study finds there is no backfire effect when a company’s motive for selecting a uniquely spelled name is perceived as sincere.

Crowdsourcing or explaining the name may make a difference

“When a brand name is crowdsourced by consumers rather than chosen by the company, the backfire effect is eliminated,” Costello explained. “We also find unconventionally spelled brand names may even be preferable when consumers want an especially memorable experience – for example, visiting a bar made entirely of ice at a vacation destination like Las Vegas.”

Watch a video interview with Professor Costello here.

So why do so many companies choose intentionally misspelled brand names?

Prior research has shown they are more memorable and make it easier to trademark and find related domain names. They may also help convey the brand is trendy, cool or young.

“A pilot study we conducted with 100 marketing managers found support for all three of these beliefs,” Costello said. “So, it’s a bit surprising to find that the use of an unconventional spelling often backfires, reducing consumers’ likelihood to support the brand.”

The study shows there are both positives and negatives to using unique spellings, including a risk of alienating consumers. It offers important insights for firms launching new brands and marketing agencies that specialise in the naming of brands.

“If companies choose to use unconventional spellings for new brands, they should clearly communicate a sincere naming origin story during introductory marketing campaigns to avoid the backfire effect,” Costello suggested. “They could also communicate this sincerity when designing different brand elements – such as logos, packaging or slogans.”

You can read more about the research here.

Dr Kin Kariisa

Group CEO - Next Media

Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

  • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
  • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
  • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
  • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.