Guest contributor David Howard: before choosing a name, Scrabble it

David Howard · March 5, 2008 · Short URL:

I just completed another naming exercise for a client, and in doing it was reminded of an offbeat and simple test I came up with several years to qualify brand and product names -- by testing them in Scrabble.
Using a small sample survey, I've found that successful names tend to score higher in Scrabble.
YouTube, the world's largest video sharing site, scores an impressive 12, while fast-growing Facebook weighs in with a rack-busting total of 19.
Well-known brand names like Microsoft, at 16, McDonalds (15), Disney (10), Coke (10), Nike (8) and Google (8) support the hypothesis, and a score of eight seems to be a minimum to shoot for. scores a 13.
The theory isn't scientific and there are exceptions, like Intel, which scores a five.
What makes Scrabble a good test for names?
Well, the game favors the use of consonants over vowels, and there is some evidence that consonants are easier to recall.
Simone Taylor, a clinical psychologist, hypothesizes that it may have something to do with how we learn to read as children and our understanding of phonemes, the smallest minimal sound unit of speech.
"Consonant sounds may be easier to remember because many children spend so much time practicing those sounds when learning to read." says Taylor (who also happens to be my wife and the mother of the boy in the video).
In their book "Reading Research at Work: Foundations of Effective Practice," Katherine A. Dougherty Stahl and Michael C. McKenna write that "short vowels...tend to be among the most difficult phonemes to spot in spoken words."
Since consonant sounds are easier to remember and identify, brand names that contain them may be easier to recall and communicate to others.
So add the Scrabble Word Score Test to your name development checklist - if nothing else, it can add some levity to the often-tedious process of coming up with just the right name.
And although a high score in Scrabble for your brand or product name is no guarantee of success, wouldn't you want to try anything that increases the odds?

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