13 mins read

The Neuroscience of Memorable Brand Naming

Published on
September 7, 2023
Scott Adam Lancaster
Brand Development Expert
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With most markets fairly saturated and consumers being bombarded with countless brand messages every day, one question continues to baffle entrepreneurs, marketers and neuroscientists alike: Why are some brand names more memorable than others? 

From Coca-Cola to Apple, certain brands have etched themselves into our collective consciousness, leaving an indelible mark on our memory. But how?

Well the answer lies in the intricate workings of the human brain, where a complex interplay of cognitive processes and neural mechanisms determines what we remember and why.

And although this may seem complex, we use our understanding of neuroscience and memory to create sticky brand names that are easier for brands to recall and pleasurable to say. 

Although there are many other factors to keep in mind when naming a brand, using neuroscience to help brands get a head start is never a bad investment.

So how do we do it?

Using Linguistic Processing when naming a brand

At the heart of brand name memorability lies the phenomenon of linguistic processing. 

In simple terms, our brains are finely tuned to recognise patterns, make associations, and extract meaning from language. 

It’s a way for our brains to be as efficient as possible with the energy it uses.

So when it comes to brand names, factors such as phonetic structure (how the name sounds), syllable count, and semantic relevance (the core meaning or message) play a crucial role in shaping their memorability.

Recent studies in cognitive psychology suggests that brand names with a distinct phonetic structure are more likely to be remembered. Words that are easy to pronounce and have a rhythmic flow tend to stick in our memory more effectively, due to them being close to other words which we use commonly everyday in our daily lives. Take, for example, Apple. A word which has absolutely nothing at all to do with technology, but which is a commonly eaten fruit which pretty much anyone can understand, relate to and can link to a visual image or symbol.

The semantic relevance of a brand name can also significantly impact its memorability. Brands that evoke strong imagery or emotions are more likely to be stored in long-term memory. For instance, the name "Amazon" conjures images of vastness and abundance, making it memorable and evocative whilst also connecting to the brands core mission of having the largest online marketplace.

Manipulating Memory Formation to create brand names that stick

To understand why certain brand names leave a lasting impression, we must delve into the neurological mechanisms underlying memory formation. The process of encoding, storing, and retrieving information involves various regions of the brain, including the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex.

When we encounter a brand name, our brains engage in a process called encoding, where sensory information is transformed into neural signals. Studies using neuroimaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have revealed that memorable brand names elicit heightened activity in regions associated with semantic processing and emotional arousal.

This would suggest that brand names that connect with consumers on an emotional level are more likely to be adopting into the long term memory. 

This hypothesis is supporting by studies surrounding advertising, where the most successful ads are often ones which provoke an emotional response from the target audience the brand wishes to connect with. 

This means the amygdala, a key player in processing emotions, plays a pivotal role in enhancing memory consolidation. Brand names that trigger positive emotions or elicit curiosity are more likely to activate the amygdala. This emotional arousal primes the brain for encoding, ultimately making the brand name more memorable in the long run.

Furthermore, the prefrontal cortex, responsible for executive functions such as decision-making and attentional control, also contributes to brand name memorability. Brands that capture attention and stand out from the competition are more likely to engage the prefrontal cortex, leading to enhanced memory encoding, retrieval and recall.

The Role of Familiarity and Repetition

In addition to linguistic and neurological factors, familiarity and repetition play a crucial role in cementing brand names in our memory. 

The mere exposure effect, a psychological phenomenon whereby people develop a preference for things they are exposed to repeatedly, underscores the importance of brand visibility in memory formation.

Depending on this effect alone is not recommended however, unless businesses have a huge amount of resources to invest in generating exposure and repeatedly getting their advertising in front of their target audience.

Humans enjoy the familiar. And seeing the same brand name and logo strengthens the neural connections associated with a brand, making it easier for consumers to recall it when making purchasing decisions and feeling a higher sense of trust when in the brands presence. 

This naturally lowers the friction customers experience at the point of purchase, due to increased familiarity and evoking a sense of trust.

How we use neuroscience to create memorable brand names

Understanding the neuroscience of brand name memorability has significant implications for anyone wanting to find a great name for their business.

By leveraging insights from cognitive psychology and neuroscience, we can develop brand names that are more likely to resonate with target audiences on a deeper level, leading to increased brand recall and customer loyalty.

In summary, the brand naming process should focus on:
  • Simplicity and Phonetic Pleasure: Focusing on simple, easy-to-pronounce names that create a positive auditory experience for consumers.
  • Emotional Resonance: Incorporating elements that evoke strong emotions or imagery that enhances brand memorability and forges emotional connections with consumers.
  • Consistency and Repetition: Consistent branding and repeated exposure can strengthen memory associations and increase brand recall over time. In simple terms, making sure your brand name links perfectly with your brands logo, colours, typography and other design elements can make sure your overall message and brand presence is more distinctive and memorable. 

In conclusion, neuroscience can undoubtably enrich the brand naming process and help us to find brand names which are easier for consumers to remember and recall.

By aligning a brand’s internal communications with principles rooted in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, companies can create brand names that leave a lasting impression and stand the test of time in the minds of consumers.

We've been using neuroscience over the past decade to offer comprehensive brand naming packages which can help support and guide founders and entrepreneurs through the process and help them find a ready-to-trademark brand name which connects with their target audience and positions them effectively in the marketplace.

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