People judge brands on how they sound

Canada, April 19 (IANS) Our feelings and intuitions play a key role in our liking or disliking a specific brand and brand managers should name a product keeping in mind that people associate certain sounds with nearness and some with distance, says a recent study.

According to researchers, the study is a significant addition to the existing body of knowledge about sound symbolism — the intuitive understanding of the meaning of specific sounds.

The findings showed that people intuitively associate front vowel sounds — those produced with the tongue relatively far forward in the mouth such as the “ee” in feet — with things that are close by.

Conversely, they relate back vowel sounds — those produced with the tongue far back in the mouth, such as “oo” in food — to things that are farther away.

“Our feelings and intuitions about sounds influence what we feel is okay for names of specific items or brands,” said Cristina Rabaglia from University of Toronto Mississauga.

“If you name something in a way that isn’t intuitive, it could decrease the likelihood that people will want to interact with that product,” Rabaglia added in the paper published online in the journal Cognition.

The findings are based on a series of five experiments conducted in New York City, including one in which participants were told that they would be given names of cities in New York State and asked to estimate their distance from NYC.

The names of these non-existent cities were crafted so that one city called Fleen contained a front vowel and the other, Floon, contained a back vowel and were randomly asked to estimate the distance between NYC and one of the two cities.

The findings showed that the participants regularly predicted that Floon was much farther from NYC than Fleen, demonstrating that people associated back vowels with distance and front vowels with nearness.

The other four experiments yielded similar results. While hearing words created especially for the research, participants generally paired those containing back vowels with distance and those including front vowels with nearness.

“Feelings and intuitions about sounds also have currency, perhaps because we are human and we interpret things in a particular way,” Rabaglia noted.

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