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The Impact Sound Has on Your Brand | Sound Symbolism


Subconsciously, we often from a consistent and meaningful image with associated with a brand as a result of certain sounds used within the brand name, this concept is known as Sound Symbolism. The opposing view point is that sounds are random and suggest no meaning. This view argues that the relation between sound and meaning is completely coincidental.

This point may be arguable, however, there is in fact scientific proof and valid evidence to imply that people do associate sounds with meanings, whether they are aware of this or not.

When faced with two made up words that contain contrasting sounds, one with soft sounds such as ‘l’ and ‘m’ and the other with harsh sounds such as ‘t’ and ‘k’ , knowingly or not, we relate the soft sounds with curvaceous images and the harsh sounds with much sharper images.

When applying this to a name, a car brand for example, you will more likely use the harsh ‘t’ and ‘k’ sounds to brand a fast and agile sports car, comparing to a full-size, luxurious and comfortable family car, you would then opt for the soft ‘l’ and ‘m’ sounds. Some of the best names in the world have been developed by using the sound symbolism concept!

The impact of ‘eee’ sounds –

If we hear words such as teeny, tiny, wee and baby, more often than not, they mean ‘small’. Therefore, the common sound of ‘eee’ is used in names such as ‘Billy’ or ‘Tilly’, depending on the context, these names tend to be meaningful or short. Generally, this sound frequently suggests littleness.

As mentioned previously, some scientific proof has been found for this theory, indicating that to physically make the ‘eee’ sound, you have to make your vocal tract narrow, meaning that it gets smaller in size. The physical action of the sound impacts the meaning – to put it literally.

The aggression of ‘B’-

In order to form the ‘b’ sound you have to perform an aggressive movement using various parts of your vocal tract. When saying words such as ‘blast’, you will feel a vibration toward the back of your throat, producing a powerful burst of air through our lips. Give it a go yourselves!

Therefore, this provides good scientific proof that in fact it is the physical action that is carried out when saying these words, that makes words such as ‘bang’, ‘battered’, beat’ and ‘burst’ seem aggressive and powerful.

An example of a well recognised brand name that forms a meaning because of their sound is ‘Boss’, the high-end clothing brand, otherwise known as ‘Hugo Boss’. The use of the ‘b’ creates a powerful sound, implying aggression and strength which then becomes associated with the brand itself. Their brand is predominantly aimed at men and therefore, they like to shop here as their strong sound suggests that the men will also gain these attributes when wearing their clothes.

The wholesome sound of ‘H’-

The concept referred to as ‘word clustering’, is the reason that the word ‘home’ has various synonyms’. If a company were to have an app about interior design, possibly a name that starts with a ‘h’ this would indicate associations with house, home, habitat etc.

A brilliant example of this use of ‘h’ in a brand name is with the website called ‘Houzz’, this is a well known site for publishing renovations, all relating to homes. The ‘h’ sound produces this familiar association with home and heart, creating a relation between the brand and the wholesome idea of ‘home’. Resulting in people becoming attracted and intrigued by the brand.

The power of the ‘GL’ sounds

One of the most powerful letter clusters is the use of ‘gl’, words like ‘glimmer’, ‘gloaming’, ‘glistens’ and ‘glitz’. These would perfectly fit with annotations for a camera or even a light bulb.

If you were to use an ordinary brand name, this will only have semantic meaning. Whereas, when using extraordinary brand names, this gives the opportunity for powerful language tools to form variations of meaning. The most frequently used form of communication is your brand name, so why not use the sound symbolism concept to make it as powerful as possible!

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