Non-descriptive but effective product names

“Gunpowder” coloured nail polish, Gatorade “Glacier Freeze” flavour, Crayola “Tropical Rainforest” coloured crayons: what do these product names have in common other than the fact that they give no information about the colour or flavour that they belong to?

In a paper titled “Shades of Meaning: The Effect of Color and Flavor Names on Consumer Choice” published in the Journal of Consumer Research — Wharton marketing professor Barbara E. Kahn and Elizabeth G. Miller, a marketing professor at Boston College, found that consumers react positively to imaginative names even if they are not particularly descriptive.

“In this study, we find that ambiguous names are preferred to more common names,” the authors write. “Although this preference appears to be partially driven by the novelty of the items, novelty alone is not enough – the lack of specificity matters, too. Unexpected-descriptive names were not preferred to common names while ambiguous names were.”

Click here to read about this theory at the Knowledge@Wharton website. (Registration required)

Click here to access the full research paper.

Test rating: Useful if you have to come up with a new product name!


  1. […] In an earlier post, I discussed the value of seemingly meaningless product names. A recent survey by Opinion Research Corp. for CNN highlights how small changes to names can make a difference: The study polled Americans' feelings toward  Hillary Clinton and found that responses changed depending on which name was used – including Hillary Clinton's maiden name increased her approval rating among Republicans polled to 23 percent. "Hillary Clinton" had a 16 percent approval rating among people who identified themselves as Republican. Among people who said they were independent, "Hillary Rodham Clinton" was favored by 48 percent, compared with 42 percent for "Hillary Clinton." […]

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