English is the language of advertisement and marketing and it is also often used by German companies to address international customers (or at least to pretend to do so). In the early past, German companies advertised their products with German phrases. The reasons were simple: It was the language of the customers. But with globalization and internationalization, they did not only become more global, but the companies and marketers also thought that the ads must be international. When TV advertisement became more and more common in the 1980s and 1990s, it was almost unthinkable for advertisers to use the German language. It just had the stigma to be stale and not cool. The times luckily have changed: German has become rather common in public advertisement – not only in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Advertisement in the past
In many cases in the past, the public relation agencies did not only use the English language but sometimes even abuse it. They mixed it with German words, made new English words up or just translated German phrases into English. The result was often just embarrassing. The reasons why a wrong English term would be better than a right German one have been common sense for a long time: The awful German language – like Mark Twain would say – has not only a harsh sound but also some very long words.
The Times are changing in Advertisement
But what has once been the reason why it was considered as unsuitable for advertising products for young and modern customers, it has become a symbol for reliability, efficiency and, especially in the last years, ecological thinking. Not only the so-called Energiewende has lead to the last mentioned, but also the fact that many new German products came up that see themselves as the counterpart to the established, often American companies. That’s why you would rather have a Club Mate or a Fritz Kola in a stylish bar in Berlin than a regular Coke. With that development, also the advertisers view on Germany and the German language has changed and also the Germans seem to have become more and more at peace with themselves over the last decade. Also, others see the country in a new light: Just take a look at Berlin as the new place to be for all the creative young people from New York to Tel Aviv. Besides all that: Puns and jokes are just much funnier and also understandable when you tell them in your own tongue.
The new Selfperception of German Companies
But not only in matters of consumption, (self-) perception changed. Particularly in one of Germany’s biggest industry – the automotive industry – companies like BWM or Volkswagen realized what makes their products attractive to foreign drivers: Reliability, quality and technology. Those attributes are also a common cliché about Germany itself and that’s why they also started to rethink their public appearance as German companies by displaying it also by language. The well-known slogan by Audi “Vorsprung durch Technik” just was the beginning. Other companies followed, often also with ironically portraying the cliché of the “boring” German (like VW did in those ads).
German nowadays is not the unpleasant sound of clicking heels anymore, but has become a symbol of progress and reliability – and in some cases even of self-mockery.