Foreign branding

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Foreign branding is an advertising and marketing term describing the use of foreign or foreign-sounding brand names for companies, products, and services to imply they are of foreign origin. This can also be used for foreign products if the country of origin may not be beneficial. In this case, companies tend to use a foreign branding strategy, trying to make customers believe that the company and/or its products originate from a more favourable country than they actually do.[1]

In non-English-speaking countries, many brands use English- or American-styled names to suggest foreign origin. In English and other non-English-speaking countries, many cosmetics and fashion brands use French- or Italian-styled names. Also, Japanese, Scandinavian, and of other origin-sounding names are used in both English- and non-English-speaking countries to achieve specific effects.

English-speaking countries[edit]

  • Pret A Manger sandwich retail chain is British but its name is French for "ready to eat" (which should be spelt prêt à manger in proper French).
  • Häagen-Dazs ice cream, intended to have a Danish-sounding name, was established by Jewish-Polish immigrants Reuben and Rose Mattus in the Bronx, New York.[2]
  • Vichyssoise, a cold potato and leek soup, was recreated at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York in the 1910s, but it was given a French name.
  • Dolmio and Kan-Tong sauces have an Italian-sounding name and an Asian-sounding name, respectively, but are both made by Masterfoods in Australia.
  • "Möben" is a trademark of the English company Moben Kitchens, implying the perceived higher quality of German and Scandinavian kitchens.[3]
  • Giordano is a Hong Kong-based clothing brand, despite the name sounding Italian.
  • Matsui was Japanese-sounding brand of the electrical retailer Dixons (UK).
  • Ginsu knives have a Japanese-sounding name (Ginsu, Kanji: 銀簾; Hiragana: ぎんす), but are made in America by Douglas Quikut.
  • Rykä shoes are given a Finnish-looking name, despite being an American company.
  • Berghaus, a British outdoor equipment company, converted the name of its first premises (LD Mountain Centre) roughly into German to market its own products.
  • Au Bon Pain, a bakery cafe with a French name, was founded in Boston.
  • Frusen Glädjé, an ice cream with the misspelt Swedish words for "frozen delight", was created in the U.S. by Richard E. Smith and later bought by Kraft Foods.
  • Superdry is a British clothing company that presents itself as being Japanese via the use of grammatically incorrect Japanese language text and Japanese style foreign branding (in Japan 'Super Dry' is a brand of beer: Asahi Super Dry.)
  • Vasque, a European-sounding brand from Red Wing Shoes (US).
  • Røde Microphones is spelt with an "ø" in middle which gives the impression that the company is Danish or Norwegian, when in fact it is Australian.
  • Caffè Nero is a British-based chain of coffeehouses with Italian branding.

In non-English-speaking countries[edit]

  • Australian Homemade, a Belgian maker of ice cream and candies.
  • New Yorker, a German clothing retailer. Also name sponsor of the New Yorker Lions
  • Roland is a Japanese manufacturer of electronic music equipment with the name being chosen with the global market in mind. It is, however, difficult to pronounce for Japanese speakers, for whom it is hard to differentiate "l" and "r" sounds.
  • Alcott and Alcott Los Angeles are clothing stores marketed towards teenagers and young adults found in many cities across Italy that copy the Californian/American surfer style. Their only stores outside of Italy are in Paris, France; Beirut, Lebanon; and Tbilisi, Georgia.
  • Fashion accessories company Parfois (a French word meaning "sometimes") is in fact Portuguese.
  • KAIKO was a trademark of the German studio A.U.D.I.O.S., designed as a branding for selling their Japanese-inspired and styled games Apidya, Gem'X and Super Gem'Z.
  • Discount store Miniso tries to market itself as being Japanese, even as far as putting Japanese wording on the packaging and writing their name in the Japanese alphabet katakana in its logo. However, the company's headquarters is in Guangzhou, China.

Foreign orthography[edit]

Foreign letters and diacritical marks (such as the umlaut) are often used to give a foreign flavor to a brand that does not consist of foreign terms.

Some fonts, sometimes called simulation typefaces, have also been designed that represent the characters of the Roman alphabet but evoke another writing system. This group includes typefaces designed to appear as Arabic, Chinese characters, Cyrillic, Indic scripts, Greek, Hebrew, Kana, or Thai. These are used largely for the purpose of novelty to make something appear foreign, or to make businesses such as restaurants offering foreign food clearly stand out.[4][5]

Characters chosen for visual resemblance[edit]

Greek characters in Latin contexts[edit]

  • The Greek sigma, Σ, is often used for Latin E, although it is the equivalent of Latin S. Examples include the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding (stylized as My Big Fat GRΣΣK Wedding) and ABC Family's college-set series Greek (TV series) (stylized as GRΣΣK).
  • The lower-case Greek lambda, λ, was used for Latin A in the video game Hλlf-Life, apparently in reference to the use of λ as the symbol for the decay constant (related to the concept of half-life).

Cyrillic characters in Latin contexts[edit]

  • Cyrillic Ya, Я, and I, И, resemble the reversed Latin letters R and N, respectively, and are often used as such. Examples include the video game TETЯIS.
  • Cyrillic De, Д, may be used for Latin A, as in the film BORДT.

Other scripts[edit]

Hebrew foreign branding; note the use of actual Hebrew letters alef א (for X) and shin ש (for W).
  • The London-based sushi restaurant YO! Sushi uses a typeface that makes the Y and O look like the katakana letters and (romaji: ri and ku).
  • Letters of the Hebrew alphabet can be used to evoke Jewish culture.
  • The television series Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis use a glyph resembling Å in marketing materials, thus "STARGÅTE SG-1" and "STARGATE ATLÅNTIS", respectively. This usage derives from the symbol representing Earth on the titular Stargate, and is unrelated to the letter as used in the Swedish alphabet (which is pronounced similar to English "o").

Diacritics and foreign spellings[edit]

  • The name of the French soft drink Pschitt is merely an onomatopoeic rendition of the sound made when the bottle is opened, but the -sch- and terminal -tt are German, rather than French, clusters.
  • A premium-priced ice cream made by a company based in Bronx, New York 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, and resembles a mixture of German and Hungarian. 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", despite the fact that Häagen-Dazs does not even remotely resemble anything Scandinavian itself.
  • Le Tigre Clothing, an American brand which adopted a French name, has at times used an accent over the final "e" in tigre (French for tiger), although the French word itself contains no accent.[6] In fact, with an accent (tigré) the word becomes an adjective meaning striped like the coat of a tiger.
  • The fashion for the metal umlaut (use of umlauts in the names of heavy metal bands) can also be seen as a form of foreign branding.

Characters chosen by keyboard or encoding match[edit]

Where different keyboard layouts or character encodings map different scripts to the same key positions or code points, directly converting matching characters provides an alternative to transliteration when the appearance, rather than the meaning, is desired.

  • The cover of Madonna's Greatest Hits Volume 2 contains the Japanese characters モヂジラミミヂ. These characters share the same keys on a dual-layout Japanese/English keyboard as the letters M-A-D-O-N-N-A. The characters are otherwise unrelated and the resulting Japanese text ("mo-dji-ji-ra-mi-mi-dji") is meaningless.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Aichner, T., Forza, C. and Trentin, A. 2017. The country-of-origin lie: impact of foreign branding on customers’ willingness to buy and willingness to pay when the product’s actual origin is disclosed. The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, 27(1): 43-60.
  2. ^ Josiassen, A. and Harzing, A.-W. 2008. Descending from the Ivory Tower: Reflections on the Relevance and Future of Country-of-Origin Research. European Management Review, 5(4): 264–270.
  3. ^ "Umlaut does not make kitchens Germanic, says ASA". 2006-04-19. Retrieved 2015-04-06.
  4. ^ Chachra, Deb. "Faux Devangari". HiLoBrow. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  5. ^ Shaw, Paul. "Stereo Types". Print Magazine. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  6. ^ Richard Jackson Harris, A Cognitive Psychology of Mass Communication (2004), p. 101.

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