Foreign branding

Foreign branding is an advertising and marketing term describing the implied cachet or superiority of domestic products with a foreign or foreign-sounding name.

In English-speaking countries, many cosmetics and fashion brands use French-styled names to imply a connection to the style-conscious. Food and drink items also use French names, trading on the high reputation of France in these areas. One example is the use of the name of the French wine-growing district of Chablis on bottles of generic-quality American-grown white wine. The practice became common enough that Chablis, attached to an American domestic wine, ultimately came to convey an image of cheapness.

In countries where the common language is not English, English-based foreign branding is often found. For instance, in Germany it is common for television advertisements to be mainly in German, but to end with an English-language motto or slogan. In Japanese markets, product names often have foreign (or foreign-sounding) names. English has different connotations than Italian or French. The English-sounding names may be ungrammatical in real English, but in cases like that of walkmans may be accepted when the product reaches foreign markets.

The foreign-branded item need not have a name that would appeal to native speakers of the language. For instance, Pocari Sweat, a popular sports drink marketed in Japan by the Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., has a name that to many English speakers would imply that the product actually contains sweat, rather than the intended meaning of a beverage intended to replace the electrolytes lost in sweating. In some cases the foreign name may even be offensive to native speakers. For example, the Mitsubishi Pajero had to be renamed to Montero in Spain, since pajero is a Spanish slang term equivalent to "wanker". See external article (

The cold potato and leek soup vichyssoise was invented at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York in the 1910s and was given a French name to make it sound more palatable.

Foreign branding through creative spelling

A Bronx, New York premium-priced ice cream was dubbed Häagen-Dazs to imply "old world craftsmanship and tradition." Häagen-Dazs has no meaning in any European language, although it contains several conventions used in European languages, such as the umlaut. Volkswagen's advertising campaigns for Fahrvergnügen ("pleasure of driving") and IKEA's for unböring are similar examples, with the difference of the diacritics being linguistically justified.

Häagen-Dazs spawned imitators, such as Frusen Glädjé (frusen glädje without the acute accent meaning "frozen joy" in Swedish), another brand of premium ice cream. Häagen Dazs sued unsuccessfully in 1980 to stop them from using a "Scandinavian marketing theme."

The comic strip Hagar the Horrible is sometimes billed as Hågar the Hørrible to emphasize its Viking theme. In Scandinavian and German translations the name of the main character is actually written Hägar or Hægar, which makes it similar to the English pronunciation, whereas å, short for aa, sounds more like o.

The fashion for the heavy metal umlaut (use of umlauts in the names of heavy metal bands) can also be seen as a form of foreign branding. Here, the image being sought is probably more specifically Teutonic rather than European in general. This has also been used in softer music, like Shania Twain's album Üp.

Diacritics are not the only marketing weapons available. Faux Cyrillic lifts entire Cyrillic characters to add "Яussiaи" (yaüssiaï) flavor and "GrΣΣk" (grssk) is similarily abused. The cover of Madonna's Greatest Hits Volume 2 contains the seemingly Japanese string モヂジラミミヂ, which is in fact just an attempt to render the word "MADONNA" by using katakana characters as stylized English letters: the real Japanese reading, mojijiramimiji, is meaningless.

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