Which one of these shapes is a kiki and which is a bouba?
Did you choose the curvy shape as a bouba and the jagged one as a kiki?
Do you think it was an arbitrary choice?
The names are made up with no inherent meaning, but there’s nothing arbitrary about your selections. Upwards of 95% of people make the same choice. They do so in nearly every language on the planet and at ages as young as 2½ years.
Even nonsensical names evoke perceptions. When it comes to packaged foods, the name precedes the taste, so good branding appeals to the palate with words. The words need to stimulate perceptions and connections in the shopper’s mind that hint at the deliciousness inside. Think of product names like ‘Twinkies,’ ‘Miracle Whip,’ and ‘Gatorade’— completely meaningless yet somehow evocative.
The latest trend is food names that simulate eating.
Brand strategists have latched onto something called inward wandering brand names. They want names that, when spoken, mimic the act of eating. The names are ‘inward wandering’ because the articulation of them causes muscle movement and mouth activity that starts with the lips and ends with the throat.
How to eat your words.
The ideal inward wandering word would begin with p, b, or m.
A front-of-the-mouth vowel should come next (a, e, i, ā, ē).
The concluding syllable pulls it over the tongue and into the esophagus with a back-of-the-mouth vowel (o, u, ä, ō, ü).
An outward wandering word is just what you think.
It mimics movements of the mouth that simulate spitting or vomiting.
K, h, and g are the best back-of-the-mouth consonants to begin an outward wandering word.
Follow one of them up with a back-to-front vowel and consonant sequence and you’re basically spewing in an abstract fashion.
It sounds like marketing mumbo jumbo, but it works.
Numerous studies have established the ability of an inward wandering brand name to make a product seem more palatable. It works across languages, allowing for differing phonetics and speech mechanics. It’s effective whether you’re reading silently or saying the words aloud. Of course since we’re seeing inward wandering brand names in the marketplace, you can be sure that the technique translates into higher purchase rates and a willingness among consumers to pay higher prices.