Research: Do descriptive names work better than abract ones?

Choosing a name is very important. A name is central to communication and will be used to refer to a product, brand or company. There are many different types of names, all of which can suggest something different, but how much of an influence does this have on how people feel about a brand?

There are roughly three types of names: descriptive, suggestive and abstract names. Choosing an abstract name is often thought of as risky. Companies are afraid that it will not provide clarity on the brand and that it will subsequently negatively impact their brand value. We were curious about these concerns and decided to put them to the test.

To find out, we had research carried out by our colleague Evi van den Bergh. Her study examined whether there’s a difference between the brand valuation of abstract and descriptive names. The study answered the following main question: 'What is the effect between abstract names and descriptive names of a brand and the attitude towards the brand?'

When a name is abstract, more context will be needed to find out what the name stands for. This is not the case with descriptive names, the name itself will often (almost completely) speak for itself.

The context of the presented product was also included in the study. The participants were asked to rate a product based on an advertisement. This ad provided context and showed what the product was about. The name was central to the ad. One group was shown a descriptive name with the ad, the other group was shown an abstract name. Subsequently, the respondents were asked though several questions how they rated this brand.

The results of the survey showed that, on average, people value a product with an abstract name the same as a product with a descriptive name. The concerns about the name type, therefore, appear unnecessary, if the correct context is provided. This is something that plays an important role in our work and on which we can now advise our clients about.