Regular, Diet or Zero? Old News! John, Kate or Sophie? is more like it.

The Coca Cola Company is considered to be a marketing genius-for good reason. As a consumer, what typically comes to your mind when you think of the share a Coke campaign? Perhaps it’s that coke is trying to build on individuals’ need for personal relationships…or perhaps they are trying to capitalize on the emotional aspect of sharing a Coke? As for having your name on a  bottle, maybe Coke is trying to make you feel special?

If you’re human (and not a superior intellect orangutan who reads Karishma’s blog posts for fun) you are likely to be susceptible to what is known as the name letter effect, which is the tendency to prefer letters that are present in your own name. Individuals are typically biased towards stimuli that are associated with the self- names, which are most closely associated with one’s own identity- are one of them. This tendency to prefer letters that are present In one’s own name can be unconscious- you won’t typically find Adam openly professing that he has a fetish for the letter A.

Individuals can even acquire feelings of attachment to an object that resembles their own name. If people like objects that contain one or two letters of their own name, they are sure to LOVE an object that has their entire name on it! When you walk into a store and see a Coke bottle with your name on it, you are more likely to assign positive feelings to that bottle of Coke, over a bottle of fruit juice that has only one (or no) letters of your name on it! Therefore when buying a Coke for yourself, you’re likely to hunt down a bottle that has your name on it.

Our brains also seem to be biased towards information related to the self. Individuals typically have a better memory for information related to the self and Kelley et al., (2002) find that self-referential information processing activates different regions in the brain compared to other forms of semantic processing. If individuals remember self-related information more, could it be that a product that symbolizes YOU as a person will be more easily recalled in memory when thinking about products in general?

By encouraging people to ‘share’ a coke, the manufacturing giant also builds on the fact that giving is associated with positive emotions. Psychologists at the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School find that individuals who have just spent money on others are more likely to report feeling greater levels of happiness compared to individuals who have just spent money on themselves. Encouraging people to share a coke is a smart way of promoting coke sales as at the end of the day, whether the coke is bought for yourself or your friend doesn’t really matter as long as it’s Coke you are buying and not Pepsi or Appletiser. At the same time, YOU as a consumer feel good if you just bought your bestie Rose a can with her name on it.

If only there was a Coke can with ‘Karishma’ on it….dayum! social isolation BITES 😦

*The study on money and happiness is credited to Dunn & colleagues (2008)
*To know more about the name letter effect see Koole & Pelham (2003)


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