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Monday, September 15, 2008

Double talk with an advertising message

For every sales pitch, you need the right words -- and the right choice of language, according to a story by Alex Mindlin in the New York Times.

A New Delhi study has found that when you are dealing with a bilingual population, you have to be careful what language(s) you choose to promote your product.

If you want to sell in India, the rules are like this:

For luxury products (that Ferrari, mink coat, diamond necklace), use English.
If you're promoting a middle class treat, like chocolate, use an English-rich mix of English and Hindi.
If it's something basic like detergent, use a Hindi-rich mixture of Hindi and English.

"English is the language which is global and cosmopolitan and upper class," said Aradhna Krishna, author of the study and marketing professor at the University of Michigan. "You associate your first language with family, with warmth, with belongingness."

The catch: Something entirely in Hindi backfires. The reader thinks, who the devil is this bloke who thinks he can use my language?

An intriguing complication of globalization -- and a whole new view of the English language. One cannot help wondering if the same rules apply in other countries where English is spoken, written, and read on a daily basis, but as a second language ...

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