When I moved to Wales at the age of ten, I could not speak a word of English. Starting school in year 6, I quickly had to learn and catch up with my school mates. Although bilingual, I still have my French accent. Having a “foreign” accent in one or more languages is, in fact, the norm for bilinguals. There is no relationship between one’s command of a language and whether one has an accent in it. Having an accent has never been problematic and it is something that I accept and embrace as part of my identity.
But what happens if having an accent leads to serious mispronunciations?
It appears that consumers in Spanish-speaking countries such as Argentina and Spain have difficulties with the pronunciation of Pepsi. Indeed, the “ps” sound in the second syllable is very difficult to pronounce for Spanish speakers.
This is demonstrated to us in this humorous Spanish campaign staring Chelsea player, Fernando Torres who quickly gets frustrated with a British director as he keeps trying to correct his pronunciation of the word “Pepsi”.
After filming repeated takes, Torres rips the letter “P” from a Pepsi sign and tells the director that where he comes from in Spain, it’s called “Pesi.”
Consequently, “Pesi” was born…..
After recognising that in Spain “Pepsi” is phonetically difficult to pronounce, Pepsi’s agency, BBDO, proposed to rename the brand within its campaign.
However the re-branding didn’t just happen in Spain…
It appears that 25% of the Spanish speaking population in Argentina are asking for a “pesci” instead of a Pepsi.
The result: Pepsi adjusted its name to the local pronunciation in Argentina – Pesci.
The tag line for this campaign “it doesn’t matter how you say it, you are saving either way” came out in 2009 when the Spanish economy was hit by recession. The overall message was that you can either save money by drinking Pepsi, or save by drinking Pecsi (regardless of how you pronounce it).
Rather than trying to change the Spanish speaking consumer and educating him or her towards the official pronunciation of the brand, Pepsi recognises the local challenges and is proud to create the first “democratic pronunciation of a brand” – in other words, transcreation.
By understanding and taking into account cultural nuances, Pepsi is able to build a closer, more interactive relationship with its consumers. It presents the image of a corporate giant prepared to listen, to integrate with the cultures of its international markets and care about the way in which its consumers connect with the brand.
One might say the language of success has many different accents, and in this case it carries one very eloquent message. Respect, listen and learn. Create and transcreate.