POST Online Media Lite Edition


Consumers less likely to support brands with unconventional spellings

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

Article continues below

In recent years, brand strategists have recommended companies use unconventional spellings of otherwise familiar words e.g., "Lyft" rather than "Lift."

This advice has gained traction in the marketplace, according to an article identifying the practice as the most popular brand naming trend for recent startups.

There are some advantages that come from using an unconventionally spelled brand name, which may explain 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 finds that in general, consumers are less likely to support uniquely spelled unfamiliar brands, compared with those that use the conventional spelling of the same word (see examples below).

"'Choozing' the Best Spelling: Consumer Response to Unconventionally Spelled Brand Names" is forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing from lead author John Costello, assistant professor of marketing at Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business, 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, who researches consumer behavior with a focus on psychological response to marketing communications and prosocial behaviors.

"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.

"When a brand name is crowdsourced by consumers rather than chosen by the company, the backfire effect is eliminated," Costello said.

"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."

Nearly 3,000 people participated in eight experimental studies, including several that measured real and incentive-compatible consumption behavior. The team used a variety of brand names across studies, both real and fictional, and examined all of the unconventional brand naming varieties shown to be common in the marketplace.

In several of the studies that involved real choices by consumers, the team found that simply using an unconventional spelling of a real word (for example, substituting a "k" for a "c") decreased its selection by 12-14 percent.

This was also apparent from a study conducted on a Football Friday at Notre Dame, where research assistants posed as brand ambassadors distributing free samples of new-to-market non-alcoholic seltzers.

"We discreetly observed and recorded participants' seltzer sampling choices to measure the impact of an unconventionally spelled brand name on real product choice," Costello said. "Consistent with our predictions, participants were almost 14 percent less likely to choose the focal seltzer when the brand was spelled unconventionally."

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 specialize 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."

What to read next

When Trump gives a brand an endorsement, sells likely to fall
How to build a resilient brand
62% of consumers will stop buying from brands that compromise products to cut costs

U.S.: Strong storm for west and southwest, heavy snow for Northern Plains and upper midwest

A very strong low pressure system currently just offshore of San Francisco Bay will continue to bring high winds, heavy rain, and heavy mountain snow for California and adjacent areas of the Southwest through tonight and Wednesday as the latest in a series of atmospheric rivers impacts the West.


Magnitude 5.9 earthquake strikes Valparaiso
Perrigo recalls Gerber Good instant formula in U.S.
City of Chicago announces Community Growers Program
Xi, Putin discuss ramping up supplies of Russian gas


Extensive raid underway in Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina on suspicion of money laundering

Strong earthquake hits Afghanistan, felt from Kabul to Tajikistan
5-day quarantine for COVID-19 patients in Slovakia no longer mandatory
China seeking answers a year after fatal plane crash
Ecuador president declares state of emergency following earthquake
Venezuela’s oil minister resigns amid corruption probe


Generic pharmaceuticals market expected to reach $682.9 billion

Drug discovery services market worth $41.3 billion
Moldova resumes using Russian gas
Ukraine to ship 30,000 tonnes of wheat to Yemen, Ethiopia each
Syria earthquakes caused $5.2 billion in damage, 5.5% GDP contraction
Donors’ pledge €7 billion in support of people in Türkiye and Syria

Trending Now

Perrigo recalls Gerber Good instant formula in U.S.

U.S.: Strong storm for west and southwest, heavy snow for Northern Plains and upper midwest

China seeking answers a year after fatal plane crash

City of Chicago announces Community Growers Program


California Governor visits Lithium Valley

Czech delegation heads to Taiwan, hopes for chip investments
India to spend $12 billion on airports
New York: March 18-19, 25-26 declared as Maple Weekends
Malaysia postpones foreign worker quota approval, application
Minnesota to provide free school meals to all kids

Today We Recommend

Shortage of nurses should be treated as global health emergency


Generic pharmaceuticals market expected to reach $682.9 billion

Drug discovery services market worth $41.3 billion

Foot Locker Q4 income decreased


Schneider Electric breaks ground on its fifth plant in Hungary, will create hundreds of new jobs

Amazon to lay off 9,000 more employees
Volvo to close Europe bus body plant
CF Industries to purchase Waggaman ammonia production facility in U.S.
Cyber incident in Ferrari
Saudi Aramco, DHL sign agreement on new procurement, logistics hub


Vanda Pharmaceuticals appoints Tage Honoré to board

Akhona Qengqe to become KFC Africa’s new general manager
Marlabs appoints Usha Jamadagni as chief delivery officer
Rolls-Royce announces new leadership for Africa
AIG director William G. Jurgensen to retire
Ball Corporation promotes Daniel W. Fisher to chairman


BiH records almost seven percent increase of exports

Hong Kong exports decreased
South Korea's export falls 17.4 pct for first 20 days of March
Bundesbank: German economy to contract further in Q1
Euro area international trade in goods deficit €30.6 bn
Montana’s unemployment rate hits all-time low


Foot Locker Q4 income decreased

FedEx Q3 profit decreases
Revlon Q4 sales $589.8 million
Eastman Kodak Q4 revenues $305 million
Williams-Sonoma Q4 revenue declined 0.6%
G-III Apparel Q3 sales increased 14.2%


Micromanaging is the worst enemy of efficiency and teamwork

Niger set to monetize massive gas reserves through Saharan natural gas pipeline
Putting the brakes on EV folly that choked the market
Oil discovery in Kavango Basin may mean huge benefits for Namibians
Cape Town and Dubai battle over Africa's energy future
Is America going to lose its superpower status?


Türkiye's agricultural sector suffers 1.3 bln loss due to earthquake

Hong Kong suspends import of poultry meat and products from Gribskov Municipality, Denmark
South Korea reports African swine fever case
Taiwan reports first domestic H9N2 avian influenza case
Industry will allocate some $327,000 to assist producers affected by drought in Uruguay
Hardly fewer dairy cows, but smaller pig herd in Netherlands in 2022


Success of working from home depends on company health

Consumers less likely to support brands with unconventional spellings
HR practices have both positive and negative effects on employee mental health
CEO education is no guarantee of stock market success
How remote work affects managers
Incoming CEO's political views may drive director departure in firm


Poland: UOKIK fines Merida Polska $573,000

SEC charges DXC Technology for misleading non-GAAP disclosures
Investigation leads to takedown of darknet cryptocurrency mixer that processed over $3b of unlawful transactions
Chicago reaches $23.8m settlement agreement with e-cigarette maker Juul Labs
SEC charges Blackbaud for misleading disclosures about ransomware attack that impacted charitable donors
Former Goldman Sachs investment banker sentenced in $2.7b bribery and money laundering scheme



Five day street food festival in Mangaluru brings Indian food to city

Qatar International Food Festival is back
Me Auld Flower food and drink festival coming to Dublin for St Patrick's Day weekend
Ten days of Winter Festival, a time travel back to end of 18th century Norway
Strong Beer Fest in Munich invites visitors to taste potent brews
Food world gathers for Melbourne Food and Wine Festival this March


First GMC Sierra EV, power source on wheels

Ford Puma ST Powershift, most powerful 1.0‑litre EcoBoost engine
Toyota launches new Prius PHEV in Japan
Ariel Atom, serious motor sport or ultimate fun
ABT XNH, camper for those who want to expand their horizons
Lamborghini Invencible and Autentica, farewell to V12


Juliska tableware, collections for every occasion

Wool coats, a timeless fashion investment
Venetto bedding, creating a beautiful bedroom space
Bed headboards, sleep like a king
Great rugs for generations responsibly made
Curved sofas, elegant and gentle


New Cherry microphones for professional sound quality

Mobile Fidelity UltraDeck turntable, extreme pursuit of highest level of reproduction
Nokia G22, good smartphone you can fix yourself
NAD C 3050 LE amplifier, a classic reinvented
Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED, ultralighta and powerful laptop with OLED display
Dynaudio Confidence means pure performance


Shortage of nurses should be treated as global health emergency

WHO accuses China Of withholding data on COVID-19 origins after report about raccoon dogs
Wyoming first U.S. state to outlaw abortion pills
Tanzania launches investigations as strange disease kills 5 people
WHO sees COVID posing similar threat to flu this year
New VEXAS syndrome identified in Portugal


Missouri ordered to reduce pollution levels

Brazilian researchers discover terrifying rocks made up of plastic debris
Glacier found near Mars equator
Neolithic farmers reduced lactose in milk
Webb captures rarely seen prelude to supernova
Arctic climate modeling too conservative