A sociolinguistic perspective of the effects of packaging in bilingual markets

Huda Khan*, Richard Lee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Packaging is an important element of brand management. For a large swath of the bilingual non-Western world, it is important to consider the effects of English versus local language on packaging evaluation. This study draws on the sociolinguistic theory of the Markedness Model to explain what underpins the effects. First, pretests identified suitable Western and local brands, the expected language for the brands, and attributes associated with English and with Urdu (the local language of Pakistan, this study’s context). A mall-intercept survey (n = 209) found that Urdu (English) was strongly related to sense-of-belonging (modernity). For the Western brand in Urdu packaging, sense-of-belonging mediated the effects of language on packaging evaluation because Urdu was unexpected for the Western brand. Similarly, for the local brand in English (the unexpected language) packaging, modernity had strong mediating effects. Also, consumer ethnocentrism moderated the effects by accentuating the effects of sense-of-belonging and attenuating the effects of modernity. Collectively, the results point to the interactions of country-of-origin (COO) and language on packaging evaluation and call into question COO studies that derive findings from ‘made in country-x’ cues. Cue language may bias the reported COO effects depending on whether the language is expected or unexpected for a particular country.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-142
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Brand Management
Early online date21 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer Nature Limited.


  • Bilingual
  • Language association
  • Markedness Model
  • Packaging
  • Sociolinguistic theory


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