What Makes English Slogans So Popular in German Advertising? (including Examples)
Updated: Sep 8, 2021
"Come in and find out" (Douglas cosmetics).
"Nice to sweet you" (Lindt chocolate).
You may be surprised at how often German brands use English slogans in their advertising campaigns.
According to a study conducted by YouGov and Endmark, 64% of Germans claim not to fully understand English slogans, and only 28% are able to translate them correctly.
This begs the question: why are English slogans so popular in German advertising?
Today we'll discover why English is so popular as a language for advertising in German-speaking countries, and laugh at some misunderstood examples. Let's start by having a quick look at the definition of slogans first.
What are advertising slogans?
Slogans are short and ideally easy-to-remember phrases used to advertise an idea or product. The goal for a company is to create a connection between its slogan and brand. Some of the most famous slogans in the world include “I’m lovin’ it” by McDonald's, “Think different” by Apple and “Just do it” by Nike.
The development of English slogans
in German-speaking countries
Over time, particularly after the reunification of Germany in 1990, English has become more and more prominent in Germany. Back in the 1980s, the German website Slogans.de featured 1,108 slogans in its database, only 22 of which were in English. In the 1990s, the number of English slogans reached a whopping 18% of all the listed slogans and 30% in the early 2000s. Today, over half (55%) of its slogans are in English.
Tip: Slogans.de is a German slogan research portal that hosts over 177,000 slogans across 118,000 global brands.
3 reasons to use English slogans in German advertising
Let’s have a look at the main benefits of using English in the German advertising landscape.
1. Short and sweet
The English language tends to be shorter than German. You’ll notice this when watching your favourite English original film or series with German subtitles.
The reason why German brands often decide to use English to advertise their products is that English copy tends to be straight to the point and takes up less physical space. After all, one of the “golden rules” of copywriting is to use short sentences.
2. Playful and humorous
Have you ever heard one of these:
"I love whiteboards. They’re remarkable."
"Why did Adele cross the road? – To say hello from the other side"
They're examples of so-called puns. English is riddled with them! That's why it lends itself perfectly to advertising. Humour is a popular tool to help uphold creativity and trigger an emotional reaction.
3. Modern and international
When brands go global or want to make it seem that they already are, English slogans are a great way to go. According to Bernd M. Samland, CEO of Endmark AG, English is considered a modern language that helps give a (false) sense of internationalisation.
Of course, there are differences in terms of industry. For some sectors, English slogans make more sense than for others. A local radio station, for instance, would be better served with a German slogan, while a big international airline would certainly benefit from having an English one.
Here's a rough break-down by industry:
mostly English-dominated: information technology, tobacco, clothing
somewhat English, somewhat German-dominated: media, cosmetics, automotive
mostly German-dominated: food, health, politics
Side note: Values also influence the decision of whether to choose an English or German slogan. English slogans are used much more often when it comes to expressing hedonistic values. Among other reasons, it creates a connection with Americanism, so it makes sense for fast food companies, casinos or cinemas, to name a few. Plus, there’s a big practical aspect here: English slogans are reusable in other cultures and languages.
Misunderstood English slogans
A famous English slogan that was hilariously misunderstood by German consumers was Mitsubishi’s “Drive alive”. While the car manufacturer intended to convey a vibrant, lively flair, only 18% of German-speaking survey participants got the sentiment. The others took this slogan as more of a dare: will or won't you survive a ride in a Mitsubishi vehicle?!
Back in 2009, the German newspaper Süddeutsche did a fun survey to put their readership’s English slogan knowledge to the test. Some results were too good not to share:
Regardless of how straightforward Lufthansa’s slogan “There’s no better way to fly” might seem to you, many German-speaking readers mistook this one for “Schneller kann man nicht entlassen werden” (English: “There’s no quicker way to be let go”). In German, the verb fliegen is often used colloquially as a way of saying that someone’s fired/let go (from their place of work, school, etc.).
Beck’s slogan “Welcome to the Beck’s experience” was misunderstood as “Willkommen beim Becks-Experiment” (English: “Welcome to the Becks experiment”). While experiment and experience may sound alike, surely Beck’s wouldn’t try to lure in beer drinkers to partake in a dodgy experiment, would they?
English slogans are here to stay
The fact that some English slogans may not be completely understood by German-speaking audiences doesn’t mean that they’re unpopular whatsoever. What matters is that slogans fulfil their purpose, which is to generate attention. And as we’ve seen today, the English language has plenty of aces up its sleeve to do just that. As newer generations (Millennials, Gen Z) grow up with the internet and expose themselves to English content even more than previous generations, we can expect many more German brands to explore the beauty and fun of English slogans. Warum auch nicht?
Do you have any comments or questions? Come say hello (from the other side)!
I look forward to hearing from you: