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Use a plural (vs singular) brand name

People are up to 13.4% more likely to prefer a plural brand name (e.g. Snickers), vs a singular one (e.g. Snicker) for a mainstream product.

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(For example, the top performers for Tourlane, a travel company, are not travel influencers.)

The trick is to go back to marketing basics. Instead of focusing on expensive influencers in your immediate category, think about who else reaches your ideal buyers.

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📝 Intro

You’re working on launching a new brand of detergent.

After several weeks, you’ve narrowed the name down to two options:

  • Stainbuster

  • Stainbusters

Here’s why you should choose the second option, according to the latest scientific research.

P.S.: In last week's insight there was a typo in one of the reported experiments' results. The difference is 11.18% vs 7.19% (= 55.5% difference) and not 11.8% vs 7.19% (= 64.1% difference). This has now been corrected. Thank you for your understanding.

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People like plural brand names more

Topics: Brand & Strategy
For: B2C. Can be tested for B2B 
Research date: January 2024
Universities: Indian Institute of Management (Udaipur), Wilfrid Laurier University, and Elon University

📈 Recommendation

When deciding on a brand name, use a word in plural form (e.g. Beats vs. Beat). If your product is for a mainstream audience, people will be more likely to like your brand.

If you’re a premium brand, using either won’t make much of a difference.

🎓 Findings

  • People have more positive attitudes towards brands using the plural (e.g. Dunkin Donuts) compared to the singular (e.g. Dunkin Donut) form of their name.

  • As part of 4 experiments and analyses of 12,885 brand and mobile app names, researchers found that:

    • People were:

      • 13.4% more likely to prefer the name Fine Secrets (plural) compared to Fine Secret (singular)

      • 6.2% more likely to prefer the name Urban Elves vs Urban Elf for a delivery app

    • Large brand names with plural names (e.g. Snickers, Staples) had 12.3% better brand attitudes on average than brands with singular names (e.g. American Express)

  • The effect weakens or disappears for premium or brands focused on high quality. 

🧠 Why it works

  • When we see a word in the plural form, our mind perceives it as more than a single entity. It becomes part of a unified collection or assemblage.

  • This collection feels like a coherent larger group. This happens commonly with sports teams (e.g. Los Angeles Lakers) or family names (e.g. The Smiths).

  • We consider a unified group to be more than just the sum of its parts. This leads us to have a better opinion about these brands.

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  • The research was on English language names. In side experiments in seven other languages (e.g. German, Polish, Finnish, Turkish) the effect did not appear.

  • The study was on US-based English speakers. The effect may be different for English speakers in other cultures (e.g. the way some words sound can have implications on brand perceptions).

  • There may be other ways to achieve the feeling that the brand is part of a larger group or collection. For example, making sure the logo, other visual elements, and fonts used give the look of a cohesive, unified brand. 

🏢 Companies using this

  • Plural brand names are uncommon. Out of 570 well-known brands, only 82 (14%) had plural names.

  • Examples of mainstream brands that have plural names include:

    • Snickers

    • Whole Foods

    • Starbucks

    • Tim Hortons

    • Staples

    • Barclays

Coffee brand Folgers has used a plural name, ever since P&G bought it in 1963 and removed the apostrophe from ‘Folger’s’.

⚡ Steps to implement

  • If you’re launching a new brand, or rebranding your existing product, think of using the plural form instead of the singular. The easiest way to do this is to add an -s at the end of your name (e.g. ACMES instead of ACME).

  • Be careful. If you’re trying to position your brand as a premium or high-quality brand, using a plural brand might not be as effective.

  • Apart from using the plural or singular form, when you’re developing your brand name and identity, keep in mind that:

🔍 Study type

Online experiments and market observations (analyzing 12,315 Google Play mobile apps and 570 large brand names across 16 categories) 

📖 Research

🏫 Researchers

Remember: This is a new scientific discovery. In the future it will probably be better understood and could even be proven wrong (that’s how science works). It may also not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.

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