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NIKE, Nike or nike? What Letter Case Stimulates Purchase Intentions Most?

Relevant topics Archive, Strategy

  • Neuromarketing Principle:
    The letter case of brand names affects product attitudes and purchase intentions. To use them well, make sure brand case and the gender of consumption benefits fit properly.
  • Application:
    Stimulate purchase decisions by providing masculine-uppercase-compatibility in brand case for men and feminine-lowercase-compatibility for women.
  • How would NIKE in uppercase fit differently to both men and women consumer decisions, compared to head & shoulders in lowercase? And what subtle effects had switching PEPSI to pepsi in 2004, after the brand case had been uppercase for 32 years? The present research in neuromarketing explains what effects letter case might have on consumer decisions. UBER and lyft seem to provide similar services, although their brand case might appeal specifically to either men or women.

    Gender of consumption benefits

    Whether brand case appeals specifically to men or women depends on the gender of consumption benefits. This is defined as the salient gender of a product that comes into play in a specific consumption context. Some consumption benefits appear specifically masculine, while others would be considered feminine. The researchers propose that the gender of consumption benefits can be made salient in two ways:

    • Through consumption goals: female consumers might purchase a multi-vitamin to either run a marathon (masculine goal) or getting pregnant (feminine goal).
    • Through featured product benefits: marketers might highlight either breast health (feminine benefits) or muscle strength (masculine benefits) when advertising a multi-vitamin.

    The present research posits that the effects of brand case on product attitudes and purchase intentions depend on the congruity between brand case and the gender of consumption benefits. Greater congruity enhances processing fluency. This leads to more favorable product attitudes and greater purchase intentions. This is referred to as the case-gender compatibility effect.

    Practical use of upper- and lowercase

    Research showed that several elements of brand names have their effects on consumer behavior. For example, elements like sounds, colors and typefaces have significant influence. The phonetic structure of brand names affects consumer evaluations of products. Additionally, brand names appearing in blue (vs. orange) are negatively (vs. positively) evaluated. And at last, natural typefaces lead to more reassuring and pleasing impressions.

    Furthermore, we know that lowercase text is more legible, more inviting and easy to read and processed more rapidly. On the other hand, uppercase text is used more often in headlines and could be seen as shouting or yelling in online contexts. Next to that, lowercase brands are associated with friendliness, while uppercase brands are associated with authority.

    The research finds that lowercase brands are perceived more feminine, while uppercase brands are perceived more masculine. It is found that greater congruity between brand case and the gender of consumption benefits enhances processing fluency that leads to more favorable product attitudes and purchase intentions. Furthermore, the effectiveness of uppercase or lowercase also depends on whether the customer is male or female. Importantly, some boundary conditions apply.

    Boundary conditions

    Gender is traditionally thought of as a fixed and binary construct linked to biological sex. In this research, gender is treated as flexible and distinct from physical anatomy.

    Prior research suggests that a round shape can activate greater soft associations, while straight shapes would activate hard associations. Lowercase letters tend to involve more round surfaces, so this could also drive the effects that were found. One of the studies ruled out this possibility and suggests that indeed the brand case (instead of the letter shape) drives the effects that were found.

    The present research finds different compatibility effects for product attitudes and purchase intentions. Both men and women show positive attitudes towards brands for which brand case matches the gender of consumption benefits. For purchase decisions, men prefer masculine-uppercase-compatibility, while women tend to gravitate towards feminine-lowercase-compatibility.

    Take-home points

    • Marketers have long used design elements to convey whether products are designed for males or females. Savvy brands looking to connect with consumers that like to keep away from traditional stereotypes in colors like pink and blue should focus on the letter case that is used.
    • Brand name design has its influence on consumer behavior. Think of both aesthetics and behavior, to generate favorable attitudes and stimulate purchase intentions for the target audience.
  • NIKE, Nike or nike? What Letter Case Stimulates Purchase Intentions Most?
  • Reference:

    Wen, N., & Lurie, N. H. (2018). The Case for Compatibility: Product Attitudes and Purchase Intentions for Upper versus Lowercase Brand Names. Journal of Retailing, 94(4), 393-407.


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