Language Lens

A blog about life, discovery and culture through the lens of language and linguistics.

When brands meet grammar

We are all well aware of top brand names: Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald’s, Nike, or Apple.  Love a brand or hate it, it is a way of giving identity to a product, service or line of either. A brand is also a way to differentiate a product/service from its competitors, which is defined as its (brand) “positioning”.   Both Motel 6 and Hilton for example are in the same business and are recognized names, however, they do not compete with one another as they are in different classes and have different product “positioning.”

According to the annual study by Forbes, in 2017 Apple tops the list as the most valuable brand in the world for the seventh consecutive year, worth $170 billion.  Google is the second most valuable brand, followed by Microsoft, Facebook and then Coca-Cola.  Global brand recognition is a true success for a company, but what about when a brand meets grammar and becomes so well recognized that it surpasses language barriers or even becomes part of common everyday language?  Apple for example is used by millions of people who have little to no knowledge of English at all and yet they still say and recognize the name.  Google is a great modern example that takes it beyond solely recognition.  It started as a simple search engine and today is a common verb meaning to search for something online!  Although Merriam-Webster tells us that “to google” is to use Google specifically to find something online, who uses anything other than Google really?  …. Ok, some of you, but most of us wouldn’t consider using anything else when believe it or not there are 140+ options out there!  Yahoo is the second most used option, but somehow “yahoo it” just doesn’t sound as good as “google it” … and who can deny that “googlealo” (Google it) just rolls off the tongue so well!

Googlealo

*Translation: “When you don’t know something, Google it.”

Other marketing success stories are products like Bandaid, Kleenex, Q-tip or Gillette in Spanish speaking countries where it’s the common name for a standard razor.  These are the everyday terms for the products themselves when they actually come from merely a brand name.  Due to the dominance of American brands and recognition in movies, many cultures and languages adopt a brand name for a product.  It happens often but still, few brands will reach this level of recognition.  How it happens is something for another blog post, but starting with children, during their learning and formative years is definitely one example.

A friend of mine is a teacher for young kids in Barcelona, Spain and upon doing a grammar exercise of word opposites, a young student showed the influence of a brand.  In the final example, when “DIA” (day) was really asking for NOCHE (night) as the answer, he responded with Carrefour, (a French) supermarket competitor of another (Spanish) chain called Dia.

Is this:

a.) a comical example of a young learner b.) a case of marketing101  c.) both

I say BOTH!

opposites

 

 

 

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One thought on “When brands meet grammar

  1. Hitachi Mitsubishi on said:

    Very interesting! Good article!

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