Associate, don’t alienate
I’m from ‘up north’. In speech, therefore, my vowels are flatter and shorter than those of colleagues further south, particularly my ‘a’s’. Thus, for me, the word grass would have the same phonetic a as all of us would use in the word flat, whereas those from the south would pronounce it with the same phonetic as we all say in rather. However, when it comes to the city of Bath, I will use a long ‘a’, because that’s how they pronounce it down there. By the same token, we up north find it grating, arguably a little insulting when a southerner pronounces Doncaster with a long ‘a’ rather than the local (and therefore correct) pronunciation with the short, flat ‘a’. ‘What on earth has this got to do with marketing?’ they chorus.
This has a great deal to do with marketing, if not in literal practice, then certainly in principle. About ten years or so ago, Jeep launched an advertising campaign here for a new model, and the voice-over was with an American accent; all right apparently these days if you want to take out a short-term loan with extortionate interest rates, but for Jeep back then, not such a clever idea. Within a couple of weeks, the voice-over mysteriously had become Anglicised. The ad was still filmed in the Nevada desert or some such place, but the voice was British. Why? One suspects that either Jeep themselves, or more likely their agency, had realised that they were more likely to have success if they could associate more with their target audience by at least speaking with their accent (or lack of accent, if you’re a purist). Thus, if you run an ad campaign in China and your imagery has western rather than local faces, your campaign will bomb. If you run a campaign in France, you will need at the very least a French HQ, perfectly written French copy or better still, be a French company or failure will surely follow. Possibly a blockade or street protests as well. Vive la France.
The lesson, therefore, must be that the more you can associate with your target audience the better. It is logical when you think about it; the more you can place your product or service in their environment and culture, the more likely they are to identify with it and therefore, more likely to buy. It begs the question why car manufacturers all seem to make only left hand drive vehicles and drive on the wrong side of the road.