The Sources and Consequences of the Fluent Processing of Numbers

Dan King and Chris Janiszewski
Journal of Marketing Research (JMR)
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Executive Summary
Brand names use numbers to label levels of a product line (e.g., Nikon D40, D50, D70, D80; Canon PowerShot A430, A530, A630), inform the consumer about product performance (e.g., Miller Beer’s MGD 64, Heinz 57, Intel Core 2 Duo), and facilitate brand trademark recognition (e.g., Levi’s 501, Toyota MR2 Spyder, X-14 Cleaner). Each of these applications assumes that numbers in brand names are an important source of information. It is also possible that numbers in brand names are a source of affective responses; that is, certain numbers are more liked, and in turn, this liking increases the liking for the brand that incorporates the number into its name.

The authors find that the source of number liking is the ease with which the number is processed. This ease of processing, similar to a feeling of familiarity, can come from two sources. First, numbers that are encountered more often are more familiar and liked. For example, smaller magnitude numbers (e.g., 1, 2, 3) are encountered more often than large magnitude numbers (e.g., 1001, 1002, 1003) and rounded numbers (e.g., 10, 100, 1000) are encountered more often than nonrounded numbers (e.g., 11, 101, 1001), Second, numbers that are generated more often are more familiar and liked. Numbers that are sums and products are more frequently generated than other numbers under 100. Thus, brands that incorporate these numbers into their names have the potential to be more liked.

A series of experiments documents the influence of numbers on the liking of brands. For example, an imaginary brand name for anti-dandruff shampoo (Zinc) is more liked when it includes a common product number (e.g., Zinc 24) than when with includes a prime number (e.g., Zinc 31). The research also shows that the presence of the operands responsible for the sum or product further enhance the liking of a brand name. For example, not only is a Volvo S12 more liked than a Volvo S29, but liking is further enhanced when an advertisement for a Volvo S12 includes a license plate with the numbers 2 and 6. The operands 2 and 6 make 12 more familiar because they encourage the subconscious generation of the number 12.

The influence of available operands on liking for the number brand extends to advertising claims. The authors conducted a study in which consumers were asked to make a choice between V8 and Campbell’s tomato juice. Some consumers saw a V8 advertisement that stated, “Get a full day’s supply of 4 essential vitamins and 2 minerals with a bottle of V8” whereas other saw an advertisement that stated “Get a full day’s supply of essential vitamins and minerals with a bottle of V8.” More consumers chose the bottle of V8 when the number 4 and 2 were explicitly mentioned in the claim. Creating similar advertisements for Campbell’s tomato juice did not influence preferences for Campbell’s.

Dan King is Assistant Professor of Marketing at the NUS Business School, National University of Singapore. His current research explores how pleasure and displeasure are generated from the consumption of different products and services. He received his MBA from the University of Chicago and his PhD from the University of Florida.

Chris Janiszewski is the JCPenney Professor of Marketing in the Warrington College of Business Administration at the University of Florida. His current research focuses on how people determine the utility of products and behaviors. Professor Janiszewski has published in Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, and Journal of Consumer Research. He is a member of the editorial review boards of Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Journal of Marketing Research, and Journal of Marketing. Professor Janiszewski is past president of the Association for Consumer Research. He was the PhD program coordinator at the University of Florida from 1993 to 2005 and remains active in PhD education.

Journal of Marketing Research, Volume 48, Number 2, April 2011
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Dan King and Chris Janiszewski
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