By Andy Burrell
“Aaaah, aaaah, aaaaachoo! Hoyahammerowaherehinny!”
Let me break that down for you.
The first three words are the seconds before and during a violent sneeze. The second ‘word’ is a a glorious exclamation that my ad has shouted in the immediate aftermath of every sneeze I’ve ever heard him do.
“Hoy a hammer owa here hinny.”
Roughly translated it means “throw a hammer over here friend.” It’s supposed to have been a well used phrase in the shipyards of the Tyne back in the day. Quite why he shouts it after he sneezes I don’t know, but I do know that I will never get sick of hearing it.
I’ve always adored dialect. Something about it makes you feel at home, even if your home is hundreds of miles away. It evokes character and personality. It paints a picture.
I’d highly recommend paying attention to writers like Lee Hall, Frank McCourt or poets like Tony Harrison and the great Dylan Thomas if you want to immerse yourself in a place without actually going there. Particularly for our international cohort, but for anyone who has a passing interest in how eclectic the United Kingdom can be, Bill Bryson’s Notes On a Small Island is a wonderful literary tour of the country, meeting everyday people with stories to tell.
It makes total sense to me that brands use accents and dialect in their marketing. If you’re going to communicate your message in RP in an attempt to appeal to everyone then you will appeal to no one. Nobody wants to think of themselves as normal, average or neutral.
If you’re going to call your brand Yorkshire Tea then it stands to reason that your heritage makes up a big part of your brand identity. We all know that a Yorkshireman’s favourite pastime is telling anyone who’ll listen that he’s from Yorkshire. Why would a Yorkshire brand be any different? By communicating their origins through use of vernacular and nods to local tradition they reassure customers they are speaking to someone who understands them. Emphasise those roots. They give credibility to your brand. As a customer, I want to imagine that my tea was packed by a flat- cap-wearing whippet saying “ee by gum”.
Accents and dialect in adverts can be a strong indicator of where a brand is trying to position themselves in the market. You’ll hear a lot of Geordie accents on TV and radio because Geordies are known for being warm and friendly. You don’t hear that many Scouse accents. I’m just saying.
As we turn up the flames under this cultural melting pot of a country, as our cities and towns creep ever closer together and we become much less tied to the places we were born, dialects and accents serve as reminder of where we come from. They’re nostalgic and nostalgia puts you in the mood to buy.
In a previous life I had the joy of touring the country in theatre shows. I used to choose to stay in digs, not hotels, and I would try and have as many conversations as I could with local people, finding out their stories. Life is all about sharing stories. It’s very easy, living and working in the London bubble, to forget that there is a whole world out there that doesn’t necessarily think and do things the same way you do. I urge you to get on a train one weekend and take yourself a couple of hours in any direction (don’t go to Essex though).
Even Reading, the soulless concrete arsehole of the home counties, has one joyous bit of dialect unique to them. Lift up a rock in your garden. See that little grey insect scurrying around like a tiny armadillo, confused by the sudden introduction of light and air to his dank hiding place? That’s a woodlouse, right? Well not if you’re from Reading. Show a picture of a woodlouse to next Reading resident you meet and ask them what they see. They will look you square in the eye and tell you, without a flicker of self-deprecation, that you are holding a picture of a ‘cheeselog’.
What a time to be alive.