Phonetic Similarity in Brand Name Innovation
When developing a new brand name, similarity of the new brand name to an existing brand name may affect perceptions of the new brand name. However, marketers typically have little guidance on the optimal level of similarity versus originality. Based on linguistic theory, we develop a method to determine this optimal level. In four experiments, we examine the phonetic similarity of a company’s new brand names to the company’s original brand name, implementing a highly controlled methodology based on linguistic rules. When pre-existing attitudes towards a company are positive, an inverted U-shaped pattern is observed in brand name attitudes, such that moderate levels of phonetic similarity are preferred over closer or more distant levels of phonetic similarity. When pre-existing attitudes towards a company are negative, an opposite, U-shaped pattern is observed, such that moderate levels of phonetic similarity are less preferred over closer or more distant levels of phonetic similarity. However, when there are no pre-existing attitudes towards the company, a direct, linear relation between phonetic similarity and attitudes is observed, such that close levels are preferred over moderate levels which, in turn, are preferred over distant levels, consistent with a simple familiarity effect on brand name attitudes.
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