AA: I'm Avi Arditti, and this week on WORDMASTER: choosing the right language for advertising.
December issue of the Journal of Consumer Research contains a paper by
Rohini Ahluwalia at the University of Minnesota and Aradhna Krishna at
the University of Michigan. They studied how bilingual consumers in New
Delhi evaluated ads written in Hindi or English, or in a mixture known
Professor Ahluwalia says they compared multinationals with local companies, and necessities with higher-priced goods.
AHLUWALIA: "What we find is that when you have a local company, it
seems people are not paying that much attention to the language of the
advertising, or the language of the communication."
AA: "So you're saying that the consumers pay more attention to the language of product if that product -- "
ROHINI AHLUWALIA: "Of the advertising.
AA: "I'm sorry, the language of the advertising, if they know that that product is made by a foreign company."
ROHINI AHLUWALIA: "That's right."
AA: "And when you say they pay more attention, is that good or not so good?"
AHLUWALIA: "Could be good, could be bad, depending on the language that
you use and the associations that come out of that language. And the
reason you would pay more attention to the language is simply because
the language may be unexpected.
"So you may be more likely to
expect that this foreign corporation that's marketing this product
might be communicating to the consumers in a more formal, maybe in a
foreign language such as English."
AA: "Does the nature of the product matter?"
AHLUWALIA: "The nature of the product does matter, as we find in terms
of the implications drawn. The expectation may be more likely that you
would expect, let's say even if you're talking about a necessity like a
detergent, that you would get a message perhaps in English. The moment
you get a message that is either in the native language or is a mixed
message, that seems to generate more attention to the language that is
"In every case, the consumer might be thinking about
what it is that you're talking about, or what's your selling
proposition or what's the communication content. But the fact that you
would pay attention to the language of the communication, we find, is
much more likely if the message is coming from a multinational
corporation than when it comes from a local corporation.
for a multinational corporation that is marketing let's say a product
such a detergent or a soap or any other necessity that we want to think
about, if their advertising is in the local language, the native
language, then it's likely that the language associations would get
triggered in the mind of the consumers. And that feeling of
belongingness or closeness might be more likely to be elicited."
AA: "Meaning that they will feel more likely to buy the product."
AHLUWALIA: "Exactly. However, if you were to use a native language if
you were selling a luxury product -- and in our studies we don't use a
really high-end luxury product at all. We used chocolate, and that
could be moderately priced but in certain markets it might be more of a
luxury than a detergent.
"But when you use a product such a
chocolate, when you use a Hindi slogan versus let's say an English
slogan, what we find is the Hindi slogan actually hurts you, because
it's not the closeness, it's not that that's important in evaluating
that product. What seems to be more important is the sophistication or
the prestige or maybe the globalness or cosmopolitanness of that
AA: "So meaning that the people want, they expect that
the higher priced chocolate is going to be advertised to them in
English, because English is associated with greater sophistication?"
AHLUWALIA: "Absolutely. And that's more likely to happen if the company
that's selling this product is a multinational. However, we find when
the company is a local company, it doesn't seem to matter. A Hindi
slogan works fine, as does an English slogan."
AA: "Did any of your findings surprise you?"
AHLUWALIA: "We were surprised to see that there was no effect for the
local corporations, because we were expecting to begin with, that maybe
the English language may enhance the impact of certain products for the
local corporations. But what we found is it didn't seem to matter
either way. Because most of the time, when people were processing ad
slogans related to local corporations, they were more likely to be
focusing on the content.
"If you are a multinational
corporation, it helps a lot to think about using mixed language.
Because when you are using let's say just a native language, even in
the case of a product that's a necessity, there is a possibility of
AA: Rohini Ahluwalia is an associate professor
of marketing at the University of Minnesota. And that's WORDMASTER for
this week. I'm Avi Arditti.