News and Features

Name that shampoo!

Once they’ve developed a product, manufacturers then spend a fortune marketing it. What’s the first thing they do with a new product? Give it a name. But how do they come up with the right name for their product? How do they select a name that’s bound to catch the attention of the buying public – and hair professionals – and ensure the product will be bought in large amounts, so delivering a profit back to the manufacturer?

One route is the emotional one. Using words in the name that have an appeal to our emotions – the feelgood factor. Words like: dazzling, sensuous, luxurious and extraordinary.

Another route is the scientific one. Using words like fibrology, hydration and therapeutic, so that we’re persuaded the product must be effective because it uses science to work its magic.

And some brands use a number as part of their naming strategy. But what number, and why?

As the writer Alex Bellos recalled on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Word of Mouth’ programme the other day, researchers* tried out two names of an imaginary anti-dandruff shampoo on members of the public.

One was called ‘Zinc 24’, the other was called ‘Zinc 31’. By a large majority, ‘Zinc 24’ was voted the favourite.

The researchers believe it’s because the number 24 is a much more familiar number to us. For example, when you learn your times tables, you come across 24 quite a lot – 3×8, 4×6, 2×12 etc. That means we recognise 24 very quickly – it’s familiar, it’s friendly – and we can process it easily in our minds. So it’s easy for us to associate it with something that’s trustworthy and reliable, which is just what we want from a shampoo.

There’s also the association of ‘24 hours’. Although it didn’t come up in the research, for some people the number 24 might infer, subconsciously, that it’s quick to work, or that it gives all-day confidence.

But we never come across 31 in our times tables. You can’t multiply anything to get to it. It’s harder to process. Also, it’s an odd number, and the researchers think that most people find that even numbers are again more accessible and friendly than odd ones.

The marketers of products understand all this. They know that we can have an attachment to a number that goes beyond its simple numerical value. Every number tells a story. And the same goes for words too – we all have words and sounds that appeal to us more effectively than others. Some people even associate words and numbers with colours.

So next time your product rep pulls out a new hair tint product, or you see an ad for a new shampoo, think about the name it’s been given and why it’s been chosen. Consider your initial impression, and then look to see whether this bears up under objective scrutiny. For instance, is there any proven scientific fact, ingredients or test results to back up that first impression? And did your opinion change after you had used the product?

Advertising works – it can be fun, stimulating and aspirational. But we rarely have time to unpick the factors that are working to influence our subconscious choices.

Trichology training provides hair professionals with a deep understanding of how the body works to maintain optimum health for the skin, hair and scalp. Through studying trichology you’ll discover what causes common conditions encountered daily by hair professionals, and in what circumstances they can be managed and resolved. These skills empower you to make informed rather than emotional choices around products, based on knowledge and experience rather than marketing.

That needn’t stop us enjoying the great product names that have been created in the hair profession – which are your favourites, and why?

*Dan King and Chris Janiszewski: Journal of Marketing Research, Volume 48, Number 2