Misspelld, misconceivd. Uniquely spelld brand names don’t sell

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Remove an e. Replace a k with a c. Add an extra letter. 

Unconventional spellings are a popular brand naming approach for start-ups.

There are three main strategies. Shortening or lengthening words, and substituting letters (swapping a ‘k’ for a ‘c’ or a ‘z’ for an ‘s’ is common).

The marketing tactic has gained traction, as strategists consider the misspelled names to be memorable, easier to trademark and to register web domains. And they hope to convey a product as being ’trendy’ or ‘young’.

But does it work?

A new study published in the Journal of Marketing shows consumers are sceptical.

In eight different experiments involving a total of 3,000 participants, researchers from the University of Notre Dame tested perceptions and responses to correctly and incorrectly spelled brand names.

In one of the experiments, conducted during Football Friday at Notre Dame, researchers posed as brand ambassadors handing out free samples of 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,” says lead author John Costello, assistant professor of marketing at Notre Dame. 

“Consistent with our predictions, participants were almost 14% less likely to choose the focal seltzer when the brand was spelled unconventionally.”

The results of the eight experiments show the unique spellings backfired. Consumers perceived the misspelled names as a marketing gimmick, and assumed the brands were less sincere. 

Read more: When food has a face, people prefer not to eat it

In several of the studies that involved real choices by consumers, the researcher found products using an unconventional spelling of a real word (for example, substituting a “k” for a “c”) decreased their selection by 12-14 percent.

But the research also showed if a company could demonstrate it had a non-marketing reason for adopting an unconventionally spelled name, they could reduce the negative backlash.

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