How brand linguistics rescued Kellogg’s
The Indian subcontinent is inhabited by a significantly large population and the people speak languages belonging to three major language families: Indo-Aryan, Dravidian and Munda. These three language families have dozens of languages under them and these languages have some traits that are common and also entirely unique (compared to other language families) at the same time. It’s needless to say that India, as a linguistic area, is a living laboratory of linguistic evolution.
Not knowing the diversity of comprehension and expression of Indians, many global brands have ventured into the market in the baby steps of globalization. Some of them were embraced by Indians. Some were rejected. A few were given a chance to improve according our likes and dislikes. One such brand that was given many chances was Kellogg’s. After tasting a series of successes in the west, this brand landed in the land where nearly 1600 languages are living. Almost all MBA graduates and marketing professionals know the case of Kellogg’s as a brand, which took decades to own a place in the Indian market. They all have dissected the case in and out. They tried to understand why it failed initially, what Indians like for breakfast, what they usually eat, which taste do they prefer and how can they position the brand to appeal to the consumers. However, they all missed one simple thing – they missed exploring the languages they speak.
They ignored the tip of the iceberg.
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Kellogg’s has struggled to stay relevant on the shelves for decades. Somehow, Indians were not buying the idea of ‘corn flakes’. After extensive research, they marketed the same product as ‘Basmati Flakes’ which did well with numbers for a few years. Identifying this make-over, Andre Lefevere, a noted professor and critic, mentioned in his essay ‘Composing the other’ that this change in the name made all the difference. He reminded that even when Indians speak multiple languages, we still have something ‘Indian’ in all our languages and cultures, that nudges people towards belongingness.
India is such a country which is open for any amount of foreignization until it comes domesticated. This is the reason why we love paneer pizza along with coke and we are up for a Meetha-Paan at the end. So, when brands are forced to fish or cut bait like Kellogg’s, it is advised to look up brand linguistics.
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After decades of persistent trials and punctual errors, it got an identity as a good option for breakfast. Of course, the domestication of the name ‘corn flakes’, the positioning and the marketing of the brand, and the introduction of newer flavours helped the brand to find a niche, but it is brand linguistics that held things together – not letting them fall apart. Concurrently, the proof of the pudding is in the eating