You probably haven’t given much thought to alphabetical order since you said “present” as your high school teacher took attendance each morning. But in a post at the Neuromarketing blog, Roger Dooley reports on research suggesting you should. The reason? It seems that people whose surnames begin with letters between R and Z are more likely to respond—and respond speedily—when you give them urgent calls to action.
“We find that the later in the alphabet the first letter of one’s childhood surname is, the faster the person acquires items as an adult. We dub this the last name effect, and we propose that it stems from childhood ordering structures that put children with different names in different positions in lines,” write Kurt A. Carlson and Jacqueline M. Cona in the Journal of Consumer Research.
“In addition to responding quicker,” they continue, “we find that those with late alphabet names are more likely to acquire an item when response time is restricted and they find limited time offers more appealing than their early alphabet counterparts.”
In other words, notes Dooley, “a lifetime of being last in line (and getting the least-desirable slice of pizza or piece of cake) conditions these late-alphabet people to act quickly when they have the opportunity.”
But before you jump into a test campaign, he offers this caveat: “I’d guess that someone whose surname was acquired later in life, like a woman born an Adams but who became a Wilson via marriage, would not exhibit the same behavior. She wouldn’t have had the lifetime of conditioning that comes from always being last.”
Segmenting customers according to the first letter of their last name just might be the key to a quick sale.