Dior or DIOR? How Uppercase Letters Make Brands Feel More PremiumRelevant topics Archive, Strategy
Let’s say that you’re about to buy a new shirt or dress for a fancy dinner party, which brand would you choose?
RAFUO or rafuo?
Which one did you like best? Chances are that, when looking for a conspicuous purchase as in this example, you’d choose RAFUO because it looks more premium. It is the extent to which the brand looked premium that helped sell the conspicuous product. Psychologists discovered that uppercase characters have a subtle, yet consistent effect on how premium a brand appears to be.
The importance of brand perception
Before we dive right into the psychology of uppercase character, let’s talk about the concept of premium brands for a while. In current trends, middle-class consumers are more willing to pay a premium for products that are the best in their respective categories. Premium brand perception is defined as “the extent to which a brand is perceived as more luxurious, upscale, or prestigious than mainstream brands in a given category”.
There’s already a relatively large body of research that has shown that premium brands are perceived as more unique, as having a higher quality and price, and as having a more unique social image than mainstream brands. What’s most important, consumers believe they add quality and reputation, and that’s what they are willing to pay higher prices for.
Where do uppercase characters come into play?
As consumers, we make a lot of (unconscious) choices based on what we see. The moment we see a brand or logo, we’ve already associated it with something else, either positive or negative. So, in a split second after seeing a logo, we’ve already inferred and judged the premium value of the brand. Visual cues such as color, shape and packaging all influence whether we perceive a brand as premium or mainstream.
And that’s where brand names come in. Uppercase characters attract consumers' attention, mostly because they stand out more than lowercase letters. It’s exactly this difference in visibility that makes uppercase characters more likely to signal the conspicuousness of a brand than their lowercase counterparts. And here’s the fun part: conspicuousness is positively correlated with how premium a brand feels.
While conspicuous products make us feel good, the real reason to buy these products is because we want to impress other people. These products show off our wealth, prestige, status and way of life. It’s the public display of our purchase that’s most attractive to us. If the brand is perceived conspicuous, it increases our perception of its premium feeling.
The power for CHANGE at your fingertips
For marketers and retailers, letter case is not only an aesthetic issue anymore. Choosing or changing letter case, either to uppercase, lower case or mixed case, can make a huge impact on your brand position, and should be chosen with care.
Premium brands might increase the premium feeling that consumers have by switching to uppercase letters if they haven’t done so already. This would attract high-end users and partly mid-range consumers, and it’s exactly the trend we’re seeing: premium brands such as Dior and Berluti have changed to uppercase letters in the last couple of years. In the same way, mainstream brands would do well to maintain or switch to a lowercase brand; changing to uppercase letters would mean positioning themselves as high-priced, which might not be in line with the brand position. The exception being, of course, when a mainstream brand is planning a switch to the premium segment. Take the brand Hero for example. While it’s a low-priced mobile brand, the company decided to change their brand name to HONOR, opting for a premium feeling.
Retailers should also carefully select the letter case in their advertising. For example, lowercase letters may have a larger effect when advertising products that are bought in bulk, or that are continuously priced in the low-end range. In contrast, when advertising premium products, uppercase letters can increase how premium the product is.
So, what do you have to look out for?
While the effect is great in itself, there are three things to look out for.
The first thing to note is that the effect largely depends on social visibility; conspicuous purchases lose their value in the eyes of the consumer when these products are not used publicly.
Secondly, research has shown that some consumers may see conspicuous brands as gaudy. Rather, these inconspicuous consumers prefer expressing their status and wealth through more subtle signals of luxury, such as placing a logo on the arm or side, rather than on a conspicuous place such as the chest. Therefore, they tend to avoid these ostentatious uppercase brands, reversing the effect.
Lastly, this effect works best for new brands. For existing brands or products, we’ve already made a ton of associations. However, this is not the case for new ones. As we don’t have any existing associations with these products, we decide how premium a brand is based on directly visible cues, such as letter case.
- Uppercase letters can increase how premium your brand feels, making status-motivated consumers more likely to pay the higher price.
- Lowercase letters are better for mainstream brands that maintain a small-profit strategy with low prices.
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