In the increasingly competitive world of global
marketing, how does a multinational company based in the United
States, Belgium or Japan decide what language to use in television
advertisements aimed at selling products in India? Is it best to
advertise in Hindi, the native language of India, or English, the
language that most urban people in India also speak and understand?
Researchers from the Universities of Minnesota and Michigan have
discovered that the answer depends a lot on the product being sold.
Luxury products, like high-end chocolate, sell better in bilingual
countries if English is used, but necessities such as detergent sell
better if advertised in a country's native language, the researchers
found. But the best choice may be a blend of the languages.
issue of bilingual consumers is increasingly crucial for
multinational corporations," said Rohini Ahluwalia, a marketing
researcher at Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. "To someone
in Spain, an advertisement for a luxury item from a foreign firm
could have a more positive impact if delivered in English or
'Spanglish' than if it were delivered only in Spanish," Ahluwalia
said. "Conversely, if the advertised product was a necessity, the
native language may be more persuasive."
A study Ahluwalia and
University of Michigan marketing researcher Aradhna Krishna
conducted in India revealed that language choice is loaded with
symbolism and sorting out what works is difficult. The Hindi
language was associated with "belongingness," while English was
associated with "sophistication," the researchers said. The
implications for those multi-million dollar advertising budgets can
be serious. English-only ads by foreign companies work better than
local language ads, which "may backfire, invoking skepticism in the
consumer" Ahluwalia said. But "the safest bet is to use