Alliterative product promotions pique purchasers

February 12, 2016

New research shows that promotional messages that use alliteration - the phonetic overlap of the beginnings of words - hold a greater appeal for consumers than non-alliterative messages, even accounting for cost differences.

In "Alliteration Alters: Phonetic Overlap in Promotional Messages Influences Evaluations and Choice," to published in the March 2016 issue of the Journal of Retailing, Marketing Professors Derick F. Davis of the University of Miami's School of Business Administration; Rajesh Bagchi of the Pumplin College of Business at Virginia Tech; and Lauren G. Block of the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College demonstrate that even alliterative promotional messages that are read, rather than heard, prompt purchasers to prefer them.

"The subvocalization of a word while reading a message activates word sounds, which increases the accessibility of other words with sound overlap," the authors write. Such increased accessibility may facilitate message processing and lead to quicker and more efficient processing.

To investigate their hypothesis, the authors designed several experiments testing the effect of alliteration on such consumer purchasing processes as choice, deal evaluation, and processing speed, independent of price differentials. For instance, in one experiment, a promotion using the alliterative phrase "4 flapjacks $4.13" was judged "a good deal" more often than promotions for both "4 flapjacks $3.87" and "4 pancakes $4.13," a result the authors attributed to the greater processing efficiency facilitated by phonetic overlap.

In addition, in a small field demonstration at an ice cream shop, the professors promoted an ice cream sundae on successive Saturdays, initially advertising it as a "mega sundae $5.99" and the next week as a "super sundae $6.00." The super sundae outsold the mega sundae as a proportion of total sales, by a factor of almost 2.

One key implication for managers, the authors point out, is that to increase sales it is not always necessary to lower prices. "Merely changing the components of the other elements in the message can increase sales," they write. Additionally, the alliterative promotions were successfully pitted against prices ending in $.99, undercutting the utility of that common marketing strategy.

Explore further: Researchers study why we buy so much for Christmas

Related Stories

Cracking the code for selling into the developing world

October 21, 2015

Consumers in the developing world are some of the world's best customers - emerging economy markets have contributed more than half of the Coca-Cola Co.'s global revenue since 2006, and Mexico, China, and Brazil were the ...

How food-related warnings backfire among dieters

January 26, 2016

We have all seen messages from the "food police" telling us that sugary snacks are bad. But is it possible that seeing these messages actually make us more likely to eat sugary snacks? Researchers at Arizona State University, ...

Recommended for you

Science: Public interest high, literacy stable

October 28, 2016

While public interest in science continues to grow, the level of U.S. scientific literacy remains largely unchanged, according to a survey by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

Experts uncover hidden layers of Jesus' tomb site

October 27, 2016

In the innermost chamber of the site said to be the tomb of Jesus, a restoration team has peeled away a marble layer for the first time in centuries in an effort to reach what it believes is the original rock surface where ...

Important ancient papyrus seized from looters in Israel

October 27, 2016

(—Eitan Klein, a representative of the Israel Antiquities Authority, has announced that an important papyrus document dated to 2,700 years ago has been seized from a group of Palestinian looters who reportedly ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.