Sounds sweet, sounds bitter: How the presence of certain sounds in a brand name can alter expectations about the product’s taste

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This paper examines how certain speech sounds within a brand name can alter expectations about the product’s taste. Across two studies we demonstrate that the presence of voiced (b, d, g, z & v) vs. voiceless (p, t, k, s & f) obstruents (speech sounds produced when airflow is obstructed in the oral cavity) in a chocolate’s brand name can alter its expected taste as bitter vs. sweet. We propose this is because voiced obstruents are typically of low frequency (frequency code hypothesis), contain harsh acoustic qualities and evoke negativity (due to aerodynamic difficulties in their pronunciation). In a third study, we extended these findings to show, using the Brand Personality Scale (BPS), that the presence of voiced (vs. voiceless) obstruents makes brand names sound more masculine, rugged and tough and less honest, charming, glamorous, wholesome, cheerful and sentimental. Research linking consonant sound symbolism (specifically voiced obstruents) and product attributes is sparse. Most research in this field links vowels with product attributes, sounds with shapes and music (or musical notes) with taste attributes. We contribute by extending these findings to voicing (and associated harshness) and the sweet-bitter continuum of the expected taste.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103918
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalFood Quality and Preference
Early online date29 Feb 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Feb 2020



  • Sound symbolism
  • voiced obstruents
  • voicing
  • brand names
  • brand personality traits
  • taste attributes

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