Targeted, bilingual ads help to break the cultural barrier

A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that multinational corporations advertising in countries with a large bilingual population should use English to promote luxury items, and a mix of English and the local language in ads for household necessities like soap, flour, and basic clothing.

In the news
A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that multinational corporations advertising in countries with a large bilingual population should use English to promote luxury items, and a mix of English and the local language in ads for household necessities like soap, flour, and basic clothing.

The study was conducted on 122 subjects solely in India, but Aradhna Krishna, marketing professor at the University of Michigan, and one of the authors of the study, says the results can be generalized globally. She believes that in other countries a similar phenomenon would exist because, “The home language would be more connected with warmth and [belonging], and English would be considered more global and professional and cosmopolitan.”

Why does it matter?
Language is an important consideration in all branding work because of the large role it plays in conveying a brand's “personality” and characteristics, explains Larry Vincent, group director of strategy at Siegel & Gale, a branding company that has worked for Yahoo and American Express, among other clients.

Mike Valdés-Fauli, MD at The Jeffrey Group, says the study's findings are applicable to PR, but warns against generalizing. For optimal results, he says, PR pros should utilize multiple languages and language combinations when communicating to bilinguals.

“You need to communicate to bilingual, acculturated Hispanics in English,” he says. “But you also need to communicate... that you respect their culture enough to be communicating... in Spanish.”

Five facts:
1. The study found that in India, the local companies, unlike multinational corporations, do not use English to market their luxury items to Indians.

2. In June, Mexican beer maker Fomento Economico Mexicano and Heineken USA launched a bilingual ad effort aimed at Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the US.

3. PRTech recently launched MyRez 2.0, a multilingual reservation system that allows hotels to create a customized bookings page that can be translated from English to Japanese and Korean.

4. The National Diabetes Education Program's “Take care of your heart. Manage your diabetes” had materials in English and 15 Asian and Pacific Islander languages.

5. Coca-Cola Europe created a Facebook application available in English and Italian to promote its Burn energy drinks.

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