Name letter Branding

How our name can predict the preference for certain products

Seminar Paper, 2010

14 Pages, Grade: 1,0



1. Introduction

2. Theoretical conceptualization
2.1 Name letter effect
2.2 Implicit egotism and implicit distancing
2.3 Self-concept

3. Empirical Studies
3.1 Methods
3.2 Results

4. Discussion

5. Summary

6. References

1. Introduction

Is it just coincidence that Fabian decided to become a farmer, married Franziska, lives in Frankfurt, prefers Ferrero Küsschen and holds shares of his favourite chocolate producer or was he influenced by the shared name letter (NL)? Although the latter sounds indeed bizarre, prior research has given proof of the fact that people’s liking for their own name can affect major life decisions as well as consumption choices (Pelham, Mirenberg, Jones, 2002; Brendl, Chattopadhyay, Pelham, Carvallo, 2005). In the field of consumer behavior it is therefore of high interest to understand the customer’s motives for consumption including the influence of specific conditions and moderating factors. The reason for this concern is the overall ambition of marketers to predict consumer preferences in advance and to tailor offers and goods ac- cordingly. While the importance of the marketing tool “brand name” has been recognized in terms of eliciting meanings and forming brand equity for a long time (Wänke, Herrmann, Schaffner 2007), shared letters of consumer and brand name as a trigger for decisions are a comparatively new insight. In this regard two possibile directions of outcomes are conceiv- able. On the one hand consumers might have the tendency to favour brand names including their own name letters, an effect called name letter branding (NLB) (Brendl et al., 2005). On the other hand the reversed effect name letter repulsion (NLR) which is the alientation from a brand name due to shared name letters might occur (Kachersky, 2008). Consequently this pa- per aims at sheding light on the following question: why and how can people’s preference for or repelling from brand names be generated by their own name?

2. Theoretical conceptualization

2.1 Name letter effect

The phenomenon that human beings like letters belonging to their own name notably more than all other letters of the alphabet and also more than other individuals like these same let- ters is called name letter effect (Nuttin, 1985). The existence of this effect has been demon- strated over many countries, cultures and languages whereupon people were principally un- aware of the foundation of their NL preference (Hoorens, Nuttin, Erdélyi-Herman, Pavakanun, 1990; Nuttin, 1987). Moreover, it has been found that it is especially robust for people’s first and last name initials as well as for self-defining names like relatively rare names (Jones, Pelham, Mirenberg, Hetts, 2001). The NL effect even appears for non-birth- given names as user names in internet auctions (Kachersky, Kim, Sen, 2009). In addition, the effect is most pronounced for men’s last name initial and women’s first name initial (Pelham et al., 2002). This gender difference is anchored in women’s consciousness that their last name commonly changes with their marriage (Kitayama & Karasawa, 1997). In contrast to that, men’s preference for their last name initial stems from gaining a great deal of their selfidentity from belonging to a group such as the family (Gabriel & Gardner, 1999).

One could argue that the NL effect occurs because people are more often exposed to their NL than to other letters. That perspective is based on the mere exposure effect which shows that people’s preference for a stimulus is increased by repeated presentation of it (Zajonc, 1998). But the findings mentioned beforehand suggest that mere exposure cannot be the sole determinant since both genders are most likely exposed equally to both of their initials (Pel- ham, Mirenberg, Jones 2005). This argument is further supported by the finding that people also prefer numbers that are in their birthday to other numbers. Birthday numbers are also self-defining characteristics but compared to their names people are less often exposed to them (Kitayama & Karasawa, 1997). Altogether these insights indicate that NL liking stems from unconscious self-liking and identity construction rather than from mere exposure (Jones et al., 2001). Hence the NL effect is congruous with the mere ownership effect demonstrating that owners evaluate objects more favorably than non-owners (Beggan, 1992) and the en- dowment effect showing that people value an object more once their property right to it has been established (Kahneman, Knetsch, Thaler, 1990). Outcomes of the NL effect can there- fore be explained by self-associated mechanisms of implicit egotism and implicit distancing (Kachersky et al., 2009).

2.2 Implicit egotism and implicit distancing

Individuals have a subconscious tendency to prefer almost everything that resembles the self and to pursue outcomes similarily to their name. This is referred to as implicit egotism whereof NLB can be seen as the consumption equivalent (Pelham et al., 2002; Kachersky et al., 2009). In that view shared name letters act as a link between the self-concept and the NL stimulus facilitating the transfer of positive feelings from the self to the stimulus (Jones et al., 2004, Brendl et al., 2005). In a series of studies the impact of implicit egotism on major life decisions such as profession, place of residence and choice of spouse has been evidenced (Jones, Pelham, Carvallo, Mirenberg, 2004; Pelham, Carvallo, DeHart, Jones, 2003). For ex- ample Daniel is overrepresented among dentists, women named Louise are more likely to live in Louisiana and Stefan is disproportionately likely to marry Sandra. Although Gallucci (2003) critized the interpretation of archival data used by the cited researchers above, repli- cated and extended research lead to consistent findings which seems to falsify the objections.

Beyond, implicit egotism in connection with negative stimuli has been focussed. Nelson and Simmons (2007) showed that students whose first names began with the initials C or D had lower grades and went to worse schools than students with the initials A or B. The com- parable relation between NL and performance outcome has been found for baseball players who were more likely to strike out when their name began with a K. Supposably, people sub- consciously downplay the severity of low performance and therefore deplete their efforts or circumvent their associations with the negative stimuli (Nelson & Simmons, 2007). Due to the assumption that every individual despite its initials has an inherent desire to perform good, the drive towards negative targets supports the idea that the NL effect affects outcomes through an implicit process (Nelson & Simmons, 2007). Chandler, Griffin and Sorensen (2008) extended these insights by evidencing that sharing initials with a natural disaster in- creases the likelihood of donating in order to relieve the situation. They outline that people’s associatiation with the negative, same-initial stimuli causes bad emotions and a feeling of re- sponsibility which is dissolved by the protruding method of charity donation.

In contrast, recent research considered that implicit egotism can be reversed which is called implicit distancing whereof NLR is the counterpart in a consumption context (Kachersky, 2008). It describes individuals’ unconscious tendency to avoid self-resembling objects and characteristics when negative implications are associated with them (Schimel, Greenberg, Pysczynski, O’Mahen, Arndt, 2000). Hence shared NL also form a link between self-concept and NL stimulus but prevent the transfer of positive feelings and rather lead to a departure from it as opposed to implicit egotism.

2.3 Self-concept

Albeit the reversed outcomes of implicit egotism and implicit distancing both processes are embedded in people’s overall desire to view the self pleasantly (Kachersky, 2008). The selfconcept is composed of knowledge about oneself concerning, amongst others, behavior patterns and their outcomes in different situations, associations, personal attitudes, goals, emotions and moods resulting in the governance of information processing and behavior (Herkner, 2001). It is important to note that most people have an inherent need for selfintegrity and consider themselves as being adaptively and morally adequate which leads to the drive to maintain a positive self-concept (Steele, 1988).

In the context of consumer behavior two distinct forms of self-worth maintenance have to be focused. While implicit egotism supposably serves as a type of self-enhancement, implicit distancing is instead related to self-protection (Jones et al., 2002; Kachersky, 2008).


Excerpt out of 14 pages


Name letter Branding
How our name can predict the preference for certain products
University of Cologne  (Wirtschafts- und Sozialpsychologisches Institut)
Consumer Behavior
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
411 KB
Consumer Behavior, Konsumentenverhalten, Name letter effect, Branding, Brand, Marke
Quote paper
Barbara Bilyk (Author), 2010, Name letter Branding, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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