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What’s in a name? Maybe success, or failure

I read with great interest this recent article in The Bakersfield Californian. The column by Robin Paggi asks “What’s in a name? Possibly employment success.”

The article goes on to say that people with simple, easy-to-pronounce names tend to have an easier time getting hired. It comes down to basic human psychology, in that names that are harder to say become more difficult to remember, and thus the person is less memorable, too.

In their study, “The name-pronunciation effect: Why people like Mr. Smith more than Mr. Colquhoun,” published in the February issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, university researchers Simon Laham and Adam Alter found that “easy-to-pronounce names (and their bearers) are judged more positively than difficult-to-pronounce names.” According to the study, the length of a name, how foreign it sounds, or how unusual it is does not cause disdain from others. Judgment is based solely on how easy the name is to pronounce. Evidently, those with easy-to-pronounce names benefit from their name’s pronounce-ability at work with more positive performance evaluations and higher status in the hierarchy.

Paggi addresses the question more from a Human Resources standpoint — not surprising, considering that’s her professional background. She mentions a case where a company CEO gave an employee with an ethnic-sounding name a nickname and ended up facing a discrimination lawsuit.

I thought it more interesting to look at the argument from a business/marketing perspective. Companies with easy-to-remember names often are the most successful.

Look at Apple, Google, McDonald’s, Ford, YouTube, Coca-Cola, Nike, Honda — their names tend to be short and have sharp, distinctive consonant sounds. Whereas companies like CompuServe and Mukhranskii’s Heating & Air tend not to stick in the mind. (OK, I did make that last one up.)

It’s not just a matter of having a plain name or using real words. Mash-ups of existing words or phrases can stand out, or names that sound like real words, but aren’t — ebay, Zune, iTunes, Zillow, Microsoft.

Take a look at this article via TechCrunch — a great name, by the way — about the pros and cons of different types of company names.

Remember, when naming a business or a product, you want it to be easy to remember and stand out from crowd. Discrimination is bad when it comes to hiring practices, but can be the secret to successful branding in a competitive marketplace.


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