The conflict between a strong brand and the local language


If you talk to a man in a language he understands, the message gets to his mindIf you speak to him in his own language, the message reaches his heart.


The words of the South African former President Nelson Mandela sound true till date.  Even though originally spoken to refer to the advantage of using local languages by non-native speakers to attract the listener, these words carry a lot of weight when it comes to the world of brands as well.


What?  Well, let’s see what branding is about:


Branding definition:  “The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol, or design that identifies or differentiates a product from other products is known as branding.”


It is about:  Branding is nothing more than the emotional response a business conjures up in a customer. Brands need to forge such an important emotional connection with the target audience to succeed in a long-term scenario. And this is most effective if a brand uses the local language of the region to interact with its audience.


In general, brands generally consider adopting one of the two approaches mentioned below when it comes to communicating with their customers:  First, they could try to promote their products / services by ordering and offering great discounts on the purchase of their products (discount brands).  Second, they could look at building an emotional connection with their consumers without many offers (premium brands). Although the former can yield instant profits for a short time, it is not an economically viable model in terms of long-term sustainability.  The latter may definitely take more time to establish itself, but once consumers begin to relate to it, there is no turning back.


Let’s talk about branding by the Indian perspective. About 200 million out of the Indian population of 1.25 billion are proficient in English.  On the other hand, almost half a billion Indians can speak, read and write in Hindi. And when 43 percent of people in rural India claim that they will easily adopt the Internet if they have content in their local language, it makes multinationals look and note when deciding their brand strategy in a country like India.


Here are some examples of relatively “big names” (read: popular ecommerce and other sites) doing what they can to reach people in local languages:


  • Facebook, the global social networking giant with more than 1.44 billion active monthly users, supports 13 different Indian languages from now.  That India has the second largest number of people on Facebook in the world (after the United States), is not a surprise.

  • Talking about e-commerce, leading players such as Flipkart, Jabong and Snapdeal have already begun launching their entire sites and even applications in local languages such as Tamil and Marathi, as well as Hindi, to serve regional populations.  In addition, all forms of vernacular media are used to tap into the potential of your customers.  Result:  45-50 percent of global sales of these e-commerce businesses started from relatively smaller, non-metropolitan cities.

  • Yahoo India began branching out to seven different Indian languages from 2007, with the latest addition of 2012 in the same way was Malayalam Manorama, which led to the availability of digital content in Malayalam to users in southern India.

  • Hyundai, which is rapidly emerging as one of India’s largest automakers, has taken over as Shah Rukh Khan, considered the “King of Bollywood” as the brand’s ambassador.


These are just a few examples of how moving to regional languages (read: local) as part of their branding strategy proved to be beneficial to companies in terms of expanding their user base in the country as well as discovered new markets, previously unknown to these brands.


“It’s not what you say that matters, it’s what people hear.”


And the best way to get people to listen is to put a brand message in their local language – which ultimately means that those who speak that particular language feel instantly targeted by the brand’s manufacturer.


Common Sense Advisory, an independent market research company, conducted a survey in 10 different countries among 3,002 consumers in order to test the hypothesis that localization of products and sites could lead to an increase in total sales volume.  The results can be summarized as follows:


  • A substantial overall preference has been shown by the consumer’s mother language.

  • Because of this, a considerable number of potential consumers – let’s say, those who do not understand English – will avoid wasting time on English-language sites and will not stop buying goods that have no instructions in their local language (known as a phenomenon “if I don’t read, I do not buy “).

  • In summary, the research found that the more content in the customer’s local language, the likelihood of buying is definitely greater.


If there is one thing that defines the brand, it is the language.  Language has the power to change perceptions.  It can make a marketing strategy of a brand or break it.



Logos and the brand are very important.  In a large part of the world, people cannot read French or English, but they remember the signs very well.


Best of all – name your brand using the local language.  You are using a language spoken by the majority of the consumer audience. This helps connect with customers on an emotional level as they feel that you are one of theirs and you can also take advantage of the cultural nuances.  However, this is not always possible.  A business cannot simply randomly change the name of their product whenever they try to enter a new area.  To overcome this great challenge of the brand in all languages, companies adopt an almost as effective alternative change – reformulating and rendering a company logo in different languages, in such a way that its general appearance is preserved.



CNN’s brilliant logo in English and Arabic



The popular McDonald’s fast food chain with its multilingual global bows.


Brand, Identity and Logo – Similar, but so different


The logo of a company is neither the brand itself nor the identity of the brand.  The terms ‘logo’, ‘brand’ and ‘identity’ have different meanings and yet are closely interrelated.


Logo – Identifies a business in its simplest form with a brand or icon.


Brand – Emotional corporate image perceived as a whole.


Identity – Visual aspects that are part of the general brand.


All three have their own roles in the marketing and branding strategy of a particular product.


A brand is not worth it if it does not connect with the right audience in a relevant way.  The conflict between a strong brand and a local language will continue to exist.  And as more and more companies step up and take this as a challenge to reduce this great divide, a win-win situation will be born.


After all, when you brand properly, the competition becomes irrelevant.


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