Journal of Brand Management

, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 522–545 | Cite as

Evaluating the impact of early- and late-acquired phonemes on the luxury appeal of brand names

  • Abhishek Pathak
  • Gemma Calvert
  • Carlos Velasco
Original Article


Research has shown that marketers can enhance consumers’ expectations when a product’s attributes are congruent with its packaging, shape, sensory attributes and sound of the brand name (sound symbolism). In the past decade, a reasonable amount of research has focused on sound symbolic attributes of brand names; however, the literature linking the age of acquisition (AoA) of various phonemes, their usage in brand names and their subsequent perception by consumers is lacking. In the present research, we hypothesized that because humans acquire different phonemes at different ages and consequently some phonemes are used more frequently (vs rarely) in everyday conversations and have more concrete (vs abstract) mental representations than late (vs early)-acquired phonemes, this impacts on the way in which brand names are perceived. Specifically, across three experiments, we demonstrate that brand names created from early-acquired phonemes are more suited to basic brands (i.e., brands which are used in an everyday context), whereas brand names created from late-acquired phonemes are more suited for luxury brands. Our research shows an association between the AoA of phonemes, as captured in brand names, and the brand’s perceived luxurious appeal. We discuss the results in light of the literature on speech sound development and provide practical implications for brand managers and marketers.


Sound symbolism Luxurious brand name Phonemic age of acquisition Phonetic symbolism 



Age of acquisition


Food and Drug Administration


Hypothetical brand name


Hypothetical basic brand name


Hypothetical luxury brand name


International Phonetic Alphabet/Association

M Turk

Amazon Mechanical Turk



This research was supported by the funding from the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight and Nanyang Business School, NTU, Singapore.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Abhishek Pathak
    • 1
  • Gemma Calvert
    • 1
  • Carlos Velasco
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute on Asian Consumer InsightNanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.BI Norwegian Business SchoolOsloNorway
  3. 3.Crossmodal Research Laboratory, Department of Experimental PsychologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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