Sunday, 3 May 2015

The grand return of German in marketing

Over the past 5 years I've noticed a clear increase in the demand for German. In basically everything: website translations, SEO, set-up of paid advertising, you name it. 

Nothing new under the sun: businesses go where the market is thought to be. 

Lately though I do notice something new: enthusiasm.

The demand for the translation is not always just for strategic reasons, but also for liking the language. 

Or for feeling connected to those who speak it. 

Sure, both are related. We tend to see a culture or country that is economically strong in a more positive light in other domains too. And for sure an Angela Merkel has topped up the existing 'perception of the brand' from mere Reliability... with Likeability.

As all great Brands know: nothing can make you successful as being loved. Do not push but pull

The main expression that springs to mind though is: Cultural Determination. 

Or: our opinions and feelings are only the average of those around us. And fluctuate. 

In this, a language is absolutely no different from the rise and fall of a celebrity or a trend or a song in the pop charts: all things go through a wave of being seen as hip/cool/beautiful/trendy/great to the opposite - and, sometimes, back again.

Today, yes, even 12-year olds here in Brussels might still say that 'German is an ugly language'. But they no longer connect it to 70 years of movies reducing it to one trademark only. The negative reputation is slowly fading. It might be the very last tiny waves on the beach of collective prejudices

People born before WW2 never thought or think of it as being 'ugly'. On the contrary, for them it often was and still is the language of Europe's great composers, finest poets and most influential thinkers. A European nonagenarian can drop expressions in German, just as a teenager does in English. 'Fingerspitzengef√ľhl' they will say, or 'ins blauen hinein', savoring the sweet confirmation that this establishes them as being cultured. Or plugged in with society. 

It's funny that it's never a 'small' language that is named 'beautiful': only ever one of a very large country or very dominant culture. To the victor go the spoils: the attention goes to the beauty of that language, over the heads of that of any other. Its marketing is better.

For sure a language can be spoken beautifully or poorly. Some languages come with a very strong emphasis on the importance of speaking well, in other languages that's less the case. 

If the operas had been written in Finnish, we would all go: "What a beautiful language, how... musical"! Large sections of any society would be 'Finophile'. Others would scratch their heads and have to admit: "True, sauna... that's a nice word". Next thing you know we might focus on the beautiful sounds - and the language is on our radar. 

Sure, being liberated by the Finnish would hugely help. Their prime minister motivating Europe during dark nights. Their tall, brave soldiers distributing chewing gum. The Halo Effect kicks in and in a matter of 2 generations it will be the lingua franca of Europe. 

Where was I? O yes, the German language.

Very, very slowly - and for sure in some 10-20 years completely - we are once again entering a world in which the German shepherd does not have to be renamed in 'Alsatian', a royal family such as the British one doesn't have to change their name overnight for it sounding too German... and it can simply be the great language of Goethe again, of van Beethoven and the Lorelei. 

That in itself is a historic step.
It's how history actually works. Not by grand deeds on specific dates, but as a very, very slow river that takes a century to arrive in a very, very calm sea under a blue, sunny sky. 

You'd think that nothing has happened, but someting has. 

All together now: 



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