Original Article

Journal of Brand Management (2015) 22, 515–533. doi:10.1057/bm.2015.28

Is it the ‘alpha’ or the ‘numeric’?: Consumers’ evaluation of letter versus number changes in alphanumeric brand names

Selcan Kara1, Kunter Gunasti2 and William T Ross3

Correspondence: Selcan Kara, University of Connecticut, 2100 Hillside Rd. Unit 1041, Storrs, Connecticut 06269-1041, USA E-mail: skara@business.uconn.edu

1is a doctoral candidate in Marketing Department at the University of Connecticut. Selcan Kara’s research broadly explores consumer behavior towards branding in two aspects, cognitive and relational; specifically, it focuses on number processing, cross-linguistic variations in number processing, brand and interpersonal relationships and self-concept-related brand consumption. Because some part of her dissertation focuses on the effect of language on consumers’ number cognition that influences alphanumeric brand evaluations, Selcan received the CIBER International Business Dissertation Scholarship in 2015.

2is an assistant professor of Marketing at the University of Connecticut. Professor Gunasti’s research focuses on consumer behavior issues with strategic marketing implications such as branding, numerical processing, consumption experiences, gift giving, inference making and country-of-origin effects. His work has been published/forthcoming in Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Marketing Letters, Journal of Business Research, and Journal of Public Policy & Marketing for which he received the Thomas Kinnear Award.

3is the Voya Financial Chair and professor of Marketing at the University of Connecticut. He has previously served on the faculty at Wharton, Temple and Penn State. His research specializes in channel and brand management, ethical decision making and buyer decision making. His publications have appeared in, among others, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research. Over his career, he has taught courses at the undergraduate, MBA, EMBA and doctoral levels.

Received 5 August 2015; Revised 5 August 2015

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Abstract

This article, in five experiments, delineates the effects of alpha and numeric components of alphanumeric brand names (ANBs), by demonstrating the effects of disparities in processing between letter and number sequences on consumers’ brand evaluations. The findings show (i) ascending letters in ANBs (from D10 to E10) lead to more favorable evaluations of line extensions than descending letters in ANBs (from D10 to C10); (ii) line extensions are evaluated more favorably when a line extension ANB is formed with a change in number (from A70 to A80) (versus a change in letter) (from A70 to B70) for an existing ANB; (iii) consumers’ tendency to align brand numbers with product advancements mediates the relative effects of numbers versus letters in brand names and (iv) the observed effects are robust to differences in stimuli and context.

Keywords:

alphanumeric brand names; number cognition; letter cognition; alignability; selective accessibility model; anchoring

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