If you're suspicious of anything "creative" that isn't supported by a raft of statistics, you'll love this new study by Minneapolis naming firm Strategic Name Development, reported recently in Advertising Age.
Strategic Name Development (now, there's a name that sounds as if it were coined by committee) asked 414 people to rate their reactions to different letters of the alphabet on nine-point scales: for example, 1 for "innovative," 9 for "classic." Then SND (may I call you SND?) applied the findings to the top 1,000 most-advertised brands in the United States.
- Brand names beginning with C, S, and B are perceived as "traditional" or "classic"
- Brand names that start with X, Z, Q, and V are seen as "innovative"
- L, V, F, and W are regarded as "feminine"
- X, Z, and M make a "masculine" connection. (M is masculine? As in mama and mammary?)
Where are the vowels, you ask? SND didn't study them, Chief Linguistics Officer Diane Prange told Ad Age, because it would be difficult to account for their multiple pronunciations.
Grateful as I am that someone other than I has done this analysis, I remain skeptical about its implications. Names go in and out of fashion; as we all know, 1999's "innovative" names sound quaint and overwrought today. (Just off the top of my head: FogDog, marchFIRST, and e-[fill in the blank]). And just because "V" seems feminine in "Victoria's Secret" doesn't make it too girly for "Viagra."
I will say this about Strategic Name Development: You gotta like a naming agency whose "company dog" (listed on the web site's "About Us" page) is called "Chomsky."