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Words With Warmth and More: The ‘In-out Effect’ in (Service) Marketing

Relevant topics Archive, Strategy

  • Neuromarketing Principle:
    Consumer preference for words featuring consonants ordered inward creates the in-out effect. Inward articulation selectively biases warmth judgments and inward-wandering presents a competitive advantage for words associated with warmth or competence.
  • Application:
    Marketeers should think of inward-wandering when naming new products and services. Consumers will then expect more hedonic and more utilitarian value from them.
  • Did you know there's a hidden route to consumer preference? A recent study has demonstrated that even the most subtle features of a brand name, such as the mere pronounceability of words, affect consumer attitudes. By choosing a favorable brand name, consumers' attitudes towards your product or brand might improve. But how to come up with such a brand name? 

    Every word requires specific movements of the lip, tongue, and throat muscles. Changing any movement can distort the whole name. For example, try articulating ''L'' without moving your tongue. Pointless! Movements on specific locations within the mouth are necessary to articulate consonants. Some consonants are pronounced in the back of the mouth, some in the middle, and some at the front, resulting in either inward-wandering or outward-wandering words. Research has now demonstrated that this direction of the movements in articulating consecutive consonants has a considerable impact on consumer preference. Also called the 'in-out effect'. 

    Do you want to know more about the in-out effect and how to come up with a favorable brand name? Continue reading! 


    Online sellers, logos and product packages

    What brand name would you pick for your healthy food bars? Would you pick ONGOING or INTREET? (Brand) names and words in general convey meaningful associations and other information about the products’ characteristics. Research showed it leads to more than just brand recognition, pronunciation and memory of preference. 

    The orofacial musculature combines three fundamental functions:

        • Feeding
        • Speech production
        • Emotion communication

    This research by Godinho and Garrido (2020) focuses on speech production and the meaning words convey when they match particular movements. 

    Research on the in-out effect by Topolinski, Maschmann, Pecher, and Winkielman (2014) has recently demonstrated that inward-wandering words (IBUK; moving inwards towards from the front to the back of the mouth) are preferred to outward-wandering words (KIDUB: moving outwards from the back towards the front of the mouth). 

    Earlier, this effect was found for online sellers in eBay-auctions. Consumers rated them more trustworthy and preferred them for economic transactions. Along the same lines, other research found that logos and product packages with inward-wandering names were preferred over those with outward-wandering names. 

    Warmth and extra effects

    In four experiments, this research finds evidence for more expected warmth and both more hedonic and utilitarian value:

        • The in-out effect increases consumer preference for service providers with inward-wandering names. Judgments of warmth are affected by consonantal wandering direction. Competence judgments remain unaffected when professional groups have no particular association with either warmth or competence. 
        • When professionals are somehow associated with either warmth or competence, or when the real-life scenario is even more complex, the articulatory direction is expected to cross-cut general likeability, social warmth and competence judgments. 
        • In a product domain, the in-out effect is observed in judgments regarding both rational and utilitarian dimensions as in emotional and hedonistic dimensions. Inward-wandering product names are perceived as more likeable, hedonistic and utilitarian. In other words, these product names are believed to convey the image of a product that is pleasant and fun as well as useful and practical. 

    Boundary Conditions

    For names of professionals not particularly associated with either warmth or competence, the in-out effect only affects judgments pertaining to a warmth (but not a competence) dimension. 

    Furthermore, consumers prefer inward words more than outward words for edible products like water, beer and fizzy drinks, but not for non-edible products like shampoo, detergent, and bleach. 

    Third, the effect is disrupted when consumers are presented with vivid and suggestive visual information. On the contrary, just common marketing brand imagery like the logo or packaging doesn’t contain such power. 

    Take-home points

    Marketeers should think of new (brand) names in terms of the in-out effect. Consumers prefer inward-words for edible products and expect more warmth from professionals’ names that lead to inward-articulation.

  • Words With Warmth and More: The ‘In-out Effect’ in (Service) Marketing
  • Reference:

    Godinho, S., & Garrido, M. V. (2019). The “ins” and “outs” of product and services marketing: The influence of consonant wanderings in consumer decision‐making. Psychology & Marketing. https://doi.org/10.1002/mar.21384


    Further Reading

    • Select Fonts Wisely And Increase Your Advertising Success

      Select Fonts Wisely And Increase Your Advertising Success

      As retailers are always driven to increase sales and purchase intentions, they often rely on promotions. Consequently, we are exposed to attractive offers all the time. But how can you make sure that these promotional offers are really effective in increasing advertising success?

      Well, if you're a fan of italicized or slanted fonts, you might want to read this. A recent study has demonstrated that even the selected font style has a considerable impact on consumers' purchase decisions. 

      Continue reading and find out when we tend to fall for promotional offers!

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