The letter case is a subtle change to a brand name, i.e. whether a brand name appears in all lowercase or uppercase letters. Research published in the Journal of Retailing suggests whether a designer chooses uppercase or lowercase letters significantly impacts a customers response to a brand. However, the impact that branding has depends upon the designers choice of type case and whether it evokes a male or female ‘look and feel’.
Why should I care?
The implications for designers can be summarised as follows;
- The research reminds designers of the importance of typographic selection and letter case (lowercase or uppercase) on a customer’s perceptions.
- Importance of the gender identity of a brand. A designer should be aware that brands gender effects are contextual. The customer’s biological sex and upper or lowercase selection of type and the products target gender all add to evoke the notion of “brand personality.”
- Simple changes in the use of uppercase or lowercase letters and a consistent match with the gender intention of the product will improve the positive perceptions of a product.
Examples of lowercase vs uppercase brands include;
- adidas versus NIKE
- head & shoulders versus PANTENE,
- always versus TAMPAX
- progene versus BIOXGENIC
- facebook versus VK,
- accenture versus IBM
- bp versus EXXON
- bloomingdales versus NORDSTROM
- citi versus HSBC
- acer versus DELL
- lyft versus UBER.
Takeaways for Designers
1. Lowercase brands are rated as more feminine.
2. Uppercase brands are rated as more masculine.
3. The gender of the branding case needs to match the intended gender for the product. It enables customers to understand the intention of the brand which boosts positive attitudes about a product and in turn has the potential to increase sales.
4. Brand case rather than letter shape (straight vs. round) drives a customer’s attitudes to a product.
Designers have long used a number of design elements to convey whether a product is suitable for females or males. The use of colour such as pink for girls and blue for boys, as traditional portrayals of femininity and masculinity, is becoming blurred, as fluidity between gender is the norm rather than the exception. Smart brands are looking to connect with their customers who no longer pursue gender in binary terms. The current ideas offer a way to represent gender in a more subtle and sophisticated way.
Wen, N., & Lurie, N. H. (2018). The case for compatibility: Product attitudes and purchase intentions for upper versus lowercase brand names. Journal of Retailing, 94(4), 393-407. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.une.edu.au/10.1016/j.jretai.2018.10.002