Thursday, May 15, 2008

What the Pho and Pho Shizzle? Pun Branding Sells

I can’t stop laughing when I first saw the name of these two restaurants. Pho is a Vietnamese soup noodle dish served with thin cuts of beef, meat balls and other ingredients.

Needless to say What the Pho has a comic effect. The word Shizzle is a hip hop slang that is known as the "Snoop speak" because it was popularized by rapper Snoop Dogg.

What the Pho is actually a local restaurant in Bellevue. It’s been around for a while and due to its popularity, a 2nd restaurant opened in the Bothell area in 2007.

The owners are using malapropism and bilingual pun to take full advantage of the word “pho”. This is a cleaver tactic to brand a product based on a concept called sly or pun marketing. A good example of a bilingual pun comes from names, for instance, Sum Ting Wong – a name in Chinese that is not unusual.

According to Wikipedia:

A bilingual pun is a pun in which a word in one language is similar to a word in another language. Typically, use of bilingual puns results in in-jokes, since there is often a very small overlap between speakers of the two languages. Occasionally, some puns are more actually malapropisms - a malapropism is the incorrect use of a word by substituting a similar-sounding word with different meaning, usually with comic effect.
The use of the pun/malapropism is a pretty cleaver marketing technique to exploit cultural differences. This is s very un-traditional way to market a brand or product (thinking outside the box) and I am seeing more and more usage of this technique in marketing. There’s no formal definition for it at the moment (I can see why) . But as we know it, the world is becoming more and more flat, we are all very well versed in our cultural/ethnic differences – the potential to use this technique effectively has huge potentials.

Got a similar brand or marketing experience from your culture or in general? Please share them.