Letters of the Alphabet in Brand Names

in Letter

K

Fewer than 1% of words in English begin with the letter K, but it is a very popular letter for brand and company names. Words are often deliberately misspelled to include a K rather than a C or Q - Krispy Kreme, Kwik Fit, Kraft.

Brand names containing K stand out. The letter itself is very strong and distinct; it cannot easily be confused with another letter of the alphabet, as G and C, or O and Q can. When it comes to saying the name out loud, K has another advantage. Unless it is silent in words such as knife or knit, K is always pronounced the same way, so consumers never have a dilemma with the pronunciation of a brand name they have not seen before. The same can't be said about other letters of the alphabet - C, for instance - which can be pronounced in several different ways; think of cat, cinema, ocean, accept, capuccino and czar.

Q and Z

Q and Z are even rarer in ordinary English words. Manufacturers of hi-tech and computing products like to include these letters in brand names as they suggest that the company is innovative and different from the crowd. Think of the names Compaq, Zune, ZVUE and QinetiQ.

Z is a letter with positive connotations; it sounds lively and energetic - as in the words buzzing and pizzazz. It is often used instead of S in names designed to appeal to young people such as Bratz Dolls. That is why pop groups like the letter - Gorillaz, Boyz II Men and Limp Bizkit.

X

The letter X has similar appeal. It's seen as slightly daring and risqué, as in an X-rated film. It is a versatile letter in brand names as it can replace the syllable ex as in Xtreme, or cs or ks as in Topix and Spanx, which is useful where the words Extreme, Topics and Spanks have already been trademarked.

Masculine letters

X and Z are seen as masculine letters because of their straight lines and sharp angles. That's why they appear so often in the names of fast cars, razor blades and various gizmos designed to appeal to men: X-Type (a car manufactured by the UK company Jaguar), Xbox.

Feminine letters

The curvy C and S, on the other hand, are perceived as feminine letters, which is why they are often used in lingerie and perfume brand names and in other products marketed to women: Chanel, Sensuelle, Silhouette, Gossard and Coco de Mer.

Consonants

Consonants are classified either as obstruents or sonorants. Obstruents are sounds formed by obstructing the air flow in the mouth, so that pressure builds up and the air is released all at once. B, P, D, T, K, C (when pronounced like a K) and G (when pronounced as in golf) are obstruents. These sounds are more easily remembered and are often used by companies which want to emphasize speed or oomph - think of BlackBerry, PayPal, Pepsi and Coca-Cola. The name Tic Tac evokes the zingy taste of mint; it would be a completely unsuitable name for a perfume or a bedtime drink.

Sonorants are smooth-flowing sounds which continue for as long as you have breath. S, L, M, N and Z are sonorants. These sounds often appear in names of products which want to emphasize softness or smoothness. Think of Mercedes, Lenor (a brand of fabric softener sold in the UK) and La Senza (a lingerie chain).

Vowels

Vowels (A, E, I, O and U) can be pronounced in lots of different ways and for that reason consumers feel less strongly about them than consonants, thus they are not associated with particular qualities. Just one point, however - short vowel sounds (ie the vowel sound in cat as opposed to cart, or bit as opposed to beat) are associated with haste and speed. The handheld device BlackBerry has two short vowels. Someone originally suggested the name Strawberry for the product, but the long a sound, combined with the smooth-sounding S evokes a completely different image from the word BlackBerry, which evinces immediacy and practicality.

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Susan Purcell has 1 articles online

For more advice and information on choosing a winning name for your brand or business, go to the Winning Names site, http://winningnames.co.uk/ Susan Purcell is a writer, professional linguist and lexicographer.

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Letters of the Alphabet in Brand Names

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This article was published on 2010/04/01