Episode 3: Language(s) in advertising and branding

At the beginning of this episode on language(s) in branding and advertising, Erika mentions the old and new logos of office supply chain Staples. Both integrate a stylised paper clip to indicate a typical product.

We then discuss sound symbolism (see glossary) and Erika refers to the “maluma takete effect”, which was first described by German psychologist Wolfgang Köhler back in 1933.

Almost 80 years later, Mary Kim Ngo and Charles Spence, two experimental psychologists at Oxford University, tested if the sound of the nonsense words ‘maluma’ and ‘takete’ could evoke associations with different tastes in chocolate (spoiler: they could).

In the first part of the episode, we also talk about how the sound of brand names can suggest a luxury product. The quiz that Erika conducts with her co-hosts is based on a study published in the International Journal of Market Research in 2017.

We conclude the first part by mentioning a study by our interview guest, Helen Kelly-Holmes, on the (misguided) use of the French language in an advertising campaign for Belgian brand Stella Artois.

In the interview itself, Helen talks, among other things,  about how and why different foreign languages are used in advertising and on public sector websites. Next to her own work, she makes references to two studies in particular: The Three Circles of English: Language specialists talk about the English language and Language is a costly and complicating factor’: a diachronic study of language policy in the virtual public sector.

Bernard also mentions an advertisement for the Dacia Duster car that uses a version of the song ‘Another one bites the dust’ by Queen. For a musical break, you can find the ad here. And this is the official video for the original  1980 song by Queen.

Back to language, and Helen explains that it takes an ‘acculturated audience’ to understand allusions to popular culture in advertising. That notion was first introduced by sociolinguist Nikolas Coupland in his 2007 book Style: Language variation and identity (Cambridge University Press). 

From the use of foreign languages in advertising campaigns, we move on to the use of foreign-looking letters in branding. The most notable example of this may well be Ikea; in fact, the product names of the furniture maker have spawned various memes that allude to popular culture, e.g. the fictional character of Hannibal Lecter in the film Silence of the Lambs, and current events, such as the much criticised semi-recumbent pose of British politician Jacob Rees-Mogg during a debate in parliament.

(Have you noticed the price tag?)

Towards the end of the interview, Bernard brings up the dimensions of brand personality that were first introduced by Jennifer Aaker more than 20 years ago.

In the third and final part of the episode, we engage in a light-touch analysis of the farewell video for the VW Kombi – and as promised, here is the link to the video.

Listen to the episode here

Full transcription of the episode

References and Further Reading

Köhler, W. (1933). Zur Phänomenologie des menschlichen Verhaltens. In Psychologische Probleme (pp. 141-169). Berlin: Springer. 

Ngo, M. K., & Spence, C. (2011). Assessing the shapes and speech sounds that consumers associate with different kinds of chocolate. Journal of Sensory Studies, 26(6), 421-428.

Pathak, A., Calvert, G. A., & Lim, E. A. (2017). How the linguistic characteristics of a brand name can affect its luxury appeal. International Journal of Market Research, 59(5), 567-600.

Kelly-Holmes, H. (2017). Brand styling, enregisterment, and change: The case of C’est Cidre. In Mortensen, J., Coupland, N. & Thøgersen, J. (eds) Style, Mediation, and Change: Sociolinguistic perspectives on talking media. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 101-114.

Hilgendorf, S., & Martin, E. (2001). English in advertising: Update for France and Germany. In Thumboo, E. (ed.) The Three Circles of English: Language specialists talk about the English language. Ann Arbor: UniPress, pp. 217-240.

Berezkina, M. (2018). ‘Language is a costly and complicating factor’: a diachronic study of language policy in the virtual public sector. Language Policy, 17(1), 55-75.

Aaker, J. L. (1997). Dimensions of brand personality. Journal of marketing research, 34(3), 347-356.

14 comments

  1. This podcast made me look at brands in a different way. That they are sometimes more than “just a brand” but that there is a whole world around it consisting of the loyal customers, the brand image and all the associations that come with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed listening to the episode because I am very interested in the topic brands and advertising. It was good that you gave so many examples because now we gained more knowledge about these brands. When I see the brands on television, I can talk about it to my family.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It was very interesting getting to know what sounds and notion of sound symbolic can do to brands and how they can easily change your look at a brand.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you very much for educating me more on the topic’s advertisement and branding. It was very interesting to hear this from both the advertisers, as well as the consumers point of view. I never realized how much we as consumers value the language used in these advertisements. And how much work goes into studying the groups of people the advertisers want to target. I will definitely be listening to this podcast more from now on, as it was very educational and interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you very much for educating me more on the topic’s advertisement and branding. It was very interesting to hear this from both the advertisers, as well as the consumers point of view. I never realised how much we as consumers value the language used in these advertisements. And how much work goes into studying the groups of people the advertisers want to target. I will definitely be listening to this podcast more from now on, as it was very educational and interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Loved this episode! Very interesting topics and lots of good examples. All of this was discussed in a spontaneous conversation and in a great interview with Helen Kelly-Holmes. I’ve learned things I didn’t knew before. And above all, I’ve seen a beautiful advert of the Volkswagen Kombi. I was really moved by this emotional video. Can’t wait to listen more of these podcasts!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I found this information very interesting and how branding and advertising make clients be closer to the company not only in languages but also symbolic.

    Like

  8. I really loved this episode, since I’m studying a more economic course at the moment. I really appreciate the analyzing of the use of langue in marketing since people do not tend to focus on that.

    Like

  9. I really loved this episode, since I’m studying a more economic course at the moment. I really appreciate the analyzing of the use of langue in marketing since people do not tend to focus on that.

    Like

  10. Thank you very much for educating me more on the topic’s advertisement and branding. It was very interesting to hear this from both the advertisers, as well as the consumer’s point of view. I never realised how much we as consumers value the language used in these advertisements. And how much work goes into studying the groups of people they want to target. I will definitely be listening to this podcast more often from now on, as it was very educational and interesting.

    Like

  11. Thank you very much for educating me more on the topic’s advertisement and branding. It was very interesting to hear this from both the advertisers, as well as the consumer’s point of view. I never realised how much we as consumers value the language used in these advertisements. And how much work goes into studying the groups of people they want to target. I will definitely be listening to this podcast more often from now on, as it was very educational and interesting.

    Like

  12. I liked this because I find it very interesting how people make a connection with a brand through subtle ways, like sounds, foreign names, the impact of words and accents… Great job!

    Like

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