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What do Haagen-Dazs, Au Bon Pain, and T-Mobile have in common? A little tactic known as foreign branding. In this lesson, we’ll take a closer look at what this is and look at some popular brands that use it.

What’s in a Name?

What images come to mind when you hear these names: Beyonce, Tiger, Oprah, Garfield? Did you think of a glamorous singer, a famous golfer, a celebrated talk show host, and a fat cartoon cat? It just goes to show you that there is power in words.The same goes for images associated with these big-name businesses: McDonald’s (hot French fries), Apple (smartphones and computers), Ford (cars and trucks).

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What goes into a name is an important component of a business’s overall makeup. In fact, while some names are chosen based on family names or particular products, others are selected strategically to convey a particular image to consumers.One place where we see this is in a concept known as foreign branding.

What Is Foreign Branding?

Foreign branding may sound like something a marketer does overseas to generate interest in a product or service, but it actually hits much closer to home. The strategy of foreign branding involves a spelling or word pronunciation associated with a different language. The purpose? To create the type of brand image or perceived value that a business is after.

Because we already know there is power in words and names, it becomes entirely feasible — in fact, necessary, in many cases — that brand names are chosen to convey a certain imagery, feeling, or emotion about a product or service.Sometimes foreign branding is aimed at a brand or product name, specifically. Other times, it may simply be language used in advertisements that portrays an image the brand wants to project onto its audience. By manipulating words, companies can impact how consumers perceive and judge products they’re selling.For example, when you think of quality German engineering in auto manufacturers, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? BMW? Mercedes? What about the top lines of vodka consumed around the world? Chances are a vodka with a Russian-sounding name will be a better seller than a brand with a Midwestern-sounding one. Brands hope that by carefully cultivating their image (or that of their product), including choosing the right words, customers will attach extra value or significance and, consequently, develop a loyalty to that named product and pay a premium for it.The thing is, foreign branding is all around us.

In fact, it’s probably in places we never knew ; or suspected. Let’s take a look at some interesting foreign branding on our store shelves and around our communities.

Foreign Branding Examples

Let’s see how many of these you recognize.

The origins of their names might surprise you.

Haagen-Dazs

This decadent and luxurious-sounding brand of ice cream may have you conjuring up images of frosty European mountaintops and charming Scandinavian villages. Would it surprise you to know that the company has its roots in the Bronx, New York? Founded by Jewish-Polish immigrants, the original packaging even boasted a picture of Denmark to help solidify its European imagery.

Why? Undeniably, the imagery of a creamy, decadent treat that comes from Europe is bound to boast more sales than one that originated in a crowded borough of New York City.

King Arthur Flour

What do you think of when you hear the name King Arthur Flour? Something regal? Royal? British royalty? It sounds like the preeminent flour on store shelves, right? Rich and lofty. Except it’s not that at all (not that it’s not good flour).

King Arthur Flour has no ties to England, save the name. It originated from the first flour company in the United States in 1790.

Peter England

A men’s clothing line, Peter England sounds like a brand you’d encounter in any shopping mall in the United States. But it’s not.

Peter England is the largest men’s clothing brand in India. Yet it’s a very Western-sounding line. Many Indian consumers express a preference for brands that have a more English-centered name. Remember, it’s not about quality or price but about perception.

Au Bon Pain

Everyone loves a good French pastry, right? So, Au Bon Pain might be your first stop on the streets of Paris. But if you’re looking for the company whose French name translates to ”the good bread,” you’d want to look no farther than Boston where it got its start.

The French have long been synonymous with fine baked goods, so a name like Au Bon Pain makes a good connection for consumers.

T-Mobile

If you’re in the market for a new cell phone in the United States, which one seems like a more likely choice: Deutsche Telekom or T-Mobile? What if I told you they are one and the same? T-Mobile has a much more Westernized name but is owned by majority shareholder Deutsche Telekom.

HSBC

The world’s seventh largest bank sounds like it got its start in the heart of New York or some other well-known big city. But its roots trace all the way back to Hong Kong. In fact, its name, abbreviated HSBC, actually stands for the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. The acronym is decidedly easier to remember if you’re a consumer looking for a loan or credit card.

Klarbrunn Water

Sip on a bottle of this water and you’re getting a little taste of clear, icy Norwegian spring water. Or are you? The name Klarbrunn does mean, ”clear spring,” a term coined by European settlers who discovered artesian springs. But this magical clear spring water doesn’t come from Europe; it comes from Wisconsin.

Lesson Summary

Foreign branding in marketing is a strategy brands employ in which they choose a name or pronunciation with a decidedly foreign flair, in hopes of projecting a certain brand image or perceived value. By using the power of words, companies can influence how their brand or product is received by consumers; in turn, they hope to create loyalty based on perceived value that customers will pay for, no matter the cost. In the United States, clear examples of this are Haagen-Dazs ice cream (born in the Bronx); Klarbrunn water (from the Midwest); and French-sounding bakery Au Bon Pain (with roots in Boston).

It is also a strategy employed overseas, such as with Indian menswear line (and Westernized-sounding name) Peter England.

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