Harsh voices, sound branding: How voiced consonants in a brand’s name can alter its perceived attributes

Abhishek Pathak (Lead / Corresponding author), Gemma A. Calvert, Lewis Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
378 Downloads (Pure)


This paper examines the sound-symbolic link between voiced obstruents (speech sounds created by obstructing the airflow) present in a brand name and the perceived product/brand attributes. In three studies (two using self-reported measures and one using an implicit reaction time paradigm), we tested the effect of voiced (b, d, g, z, v) versus voiceless obstruents (p, t, k, s, f) across 25 hypothetical brand names, on the perceived product attributes of harshness (vs. softness). Brand names with voiced (vs. voiceless) obstruents are perceived as harsh (vs. soft/mild). Results are described across two different product categories (e.g., toilet cleaner and skin conditioner), and also within the same product category (e.g., strong vs. light beer and strong vs. mild toilet cleaner). Since sound symbolism is culturally agnostic, brands expanding into international and linguistically different markets can use these insights to create brand names that will have international appeal, and can match the product and/or brand attributes that brands wish to convey to consumers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)837-847
Number of pages11
JournalPsychology and Marketing
Issue number6
Early online date13 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • consonants in brand names
  • product attributes
  • sound symbolism
  • voiced consonants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Marketing


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