Saturday, October 27, 2012

Language In Business: Sounds Foreign?

Cultural identity is closely tied to language... so closely that marketers have long exploited this idea for personal gain. Pesky marketers!

Not everything you buy is from where you think is! We'll start with perhaps the most famous example of foreign branding: Häagen-Dazs ice cream. Sounds German, right? Or Scandanavian? You're miles off! The famous ice-cream brand was actually founded by Jewish-Polish immigrants in the US. Clearly Polish, Hebrew or just plain English didn't sound delicious enough! Danish doesn't have an umlaut or a "zs", though the name was an homage to Denmark's fantastic treatment of Jews during the Second World War, when thousands of Jews were helped to evade capture by the Nazis. The labels on the ice cream initially had a map of Denmark on them too.

Another example is women's athletic shoe brand Rykä. It looks Scandinavian too, but is actually an American brand! Perhaps they were trying to make the brand sound a bit more exotic... or simply thought that American women would prefer Scandinavinan-sounding shoes.

Imagine running in these Scandinavian shoes!

The Dolmio brand, currently running adverts that say "When'sa your Dolmio day?" is actually part of Masterfoods, from Australia. Most people probably wouldn't buy pasta sauce with the tagline "G'day! When's your Dolmio day, mate?". Italians are world-renowned experts in all things pasta-related, so it's natural that they chose an Italian-sounding name.

If anyone has been to Britain and seen a chav, then they probably know what a Berghaus is. For those who haven't, it's a mountaineering coat worn by poorly-behaved cretins, and occasionally, people climbing mountains. The brand is actually from the UK and was originally called LD Mountain Centre. They tried to translate "mountain" and "centre" into German and got "Berghaus".

For those of you who don't know what a chav is,
here's a decent example of how one dresses.

Finally, we have the Pret a Manger sandwich chain. Despite its French name, it is a British company. Someone thought it would be clever to use the French term prêt à porter (ready-to-wear) and substitute manger (to eat) for porter... thus perfectly describing their "ready to eat" food, while filling your mind with thoughts of elegant French cuisine.

Marketers are experts at manipulating language to make people succumb to the lure of exotic foreign branding. There's a reason most frozen pizza brands sound Italian... it makes you think of delicious homemade Italian pizza, when in reality their product tastes like cardboard. You know their tricks now, so don't be fooled!

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