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Are you more likely to buy lipsticks with delicious sounding names?

Sheryl Nadler
Shine On
June 8, 2012

Would you rather go nude than go without your Sugared Plum? If you could only bring three things to a Desserted Island, would one of them be Black Honey? And does shopping for lipstick ever make you inexplicably hungry?

Debra Meerskin, a professor in the School of Journalism & Communication at the University of Oregon, is betting it does. For her paper, Truly Toffee and Raisin Hell: A Textual Analysis of Lipstick Names, she divided 1,722 lipstick names from 52 companies into 14 categories, including Food, Love & Sex, Flowers, Birds & Animals and Colour.

Her findings? The highest percentage of lipsticks were given food names, at 24 per cent, followed by Colour at 20 per cent. Love & Sex fell third on the list at 10 per cent and on it went from there.

So does this mean Canadian cosmetics companies are trying to woo you with tasty-sounding treats in tubes and pots of shimmery gloss?

Sort of. It depends on the company.

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Yummy Canadian cosmetics company Cake Beauty puts a lot of emphasis on scent, says the company's marketing and PR specialist Maggie Fogg. And they try to choose names based on what experience and image that scent evokes.

But while many of their product scents are food-related, they try to take a less obvious route when brainstorming names for each item, she explains.

"We like to pick names that are witty and a little bit smart but mean something and evoke a sense of nostalgia for the customer," says Fogg.

"I do agree that products with a link to 'yummy' foods typically evoke a very personal reaction for the wearer. It helps to make the experience much more sensorial," she says. "Our product names — though inspired by our unique scents — often take a cute play on words."

She cites a Tahitian vanilla and coconut-scented product named Desserted Island as an example.

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But over at Quo Cosmetics, a division of Shoppers Drug Mart, product manager Milena Kojic firmly believes consumers buy their lipsticks based on the colour first. Kojic tries to choose names consumers will remember when they return to the store to buy it again. She is even developing a line of lipstick that will do away with names altogether — the identifiers for each shade will be a number.

The only departure to this rule, says Tammy Smitham, vice president of communications & corporate affairs for Shoppers Drug Mart, are Quo's seasonal lines. For their seasonal lines, lipsticks will be named in conjunction with the theme of the collection.

"So for instance right now, we have a summer collection and the lip glosses are taking the name of a drink," she explains. "So there's Pink Punch, there's Coral Colada, Mauve Martini, that sort of thing.

"The thing with the seasonal collections is that you can give them really fun names because they are limited edition collections and the customer isn't coming back for a repeat purchase — it's something they bought just for summer or just for holiday."

Curious about the rest of Meerkin's findings?

•Food: 24%

•Color: 20%

•Sex and Romance: 10%

•Elements and Minerals: 9%

•Emotions and Characteristics: 8%

•Other: 8%

•People and Names: 5%

•Flowers: 5%

•Places: 4%

•Objects: 3%

•Darkside: 2%

•Arts and Media: 1%

•Birds and Animals: 1%

•Times and Seasons: <1%

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