IF George Bernard Shaw was alive today, he might have struggled to turn Pygmalion into a hit.
A hundred years ago, regional accents were frowned upon. Today – according to a new study – they are treasured, particularly by the business community.
George Bernard’s Shaw’s story of phonetics professor Henry Higgins, who makes a bet he can transform cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle into a lady, reflected contemporary beliefs that the Queen’s English was the best.
Now, growing numbers of British businesses are using regional accents to assert a stronger sense of identity, according to research which has thudded on Diary’s desk.
A survey of UK companies by audio branding specialist PH Media Group discovered a 27 per cent rise in the number of firms using an “accented voice” in marketing communications over the past year. The results support recent research by Aston University, which found accents are getting stronger as people across the UK strive to keep a sense of regional identity.
Businesses appear keen to follow suit, with 37 per cent of those questioned now using a regional accent in order to reinforce brand identity and reputation.
“Traditional thinking tended to suggest Received Pronunciation was the only option if a business wanted to portray a polished, professional image of itself,” said Dan Lafferty, the head of voice and music for PH Media Group.
“But times have changed. Once, the Queen’s English was held aloft as the ultimate aspiration but regional accents are becoming ever more desirable – a trend which has manifested itself across the media.
“Companies should use a brand voice which best reflects their products, customer base and service proposition.”
PH Media’s research focused particularly on the use of accents in on-hold marketing – the audio messages played to customers when they call a business using the telephone.
“Hearing is a more powerful emotional sense than sight and is more effective at provoking memory recall, so the use of a strong brand voice can enhance brand recollection and favourability,” added Mr Lafferty.
“In particular, a regional accent can convey a sense of provenance and provide customers with immediate reassurance they are speaking to someone who understands them.”
Tour de force
YORKSHIRE has promised to host the greatest ever start to the Tour de France and it is anticipated that at least £100m will be injected into the region’s economy as a result.
The 18-month countdown to the 2014 Tour’s Grand Départ in Leeds has begun and it seems that the region is already reaping the economic benefits.
Hotel chain Premier Inn said it has seen “a surge of enquiries” at its Yorkshire sites. Interest in the event has reached such a level that the reservations team is considering setting up a dedicated line to handle the “pele-tons” of calls regarding room bookings.
Premier Inn Leeds City Centre took over 200 enquiries after just one week of the Grand Départ being announced, a 56 per cent increase in booking calls year-on-year.
The enquiries came from people across the world who will be travelling to Yorkshire for the event, said the company. Premier Inn Harrogate has seen a rise in calls to the reservations team, it said.
A spokesman for Premier Inn said: “Following an amazing British summer of sport, it’s no surprise the nation is looking to wave the British flag again and support our top cyclists along the route of the 2014 Tour de France.”
THE digital revolution may have transformed communication, but many readers will agree with Diary that it can go a step too far.
Even Filtronic chief executive Alan Needle agrees.
Mr Needle was sitting in a restaurant in London last week when he couldn’t help overhear an American businessman on the next table.
He was engrossed in a Skype conversation on his tablet PC with his mother, who was in bed back in the States.
“He showed his mother what he was having to eat, an archetypal American meal,” said Mr Needle.
“He showed her it was snowing.
“But then he went to the loo with it.
“I hope he wasn’t going to show her that.”
Ironically, Mr Needle’s Leeds-based company is a major beneficiary of the digital technology revolution.
It helps upgrade mobile networks to cope with the huge volumes of data flying over the airwaves as people connect their smartphones and tablets wirelessly.
“I’m not sure it’s a good thing,” he said wryly.
“But it’s a good thing for Filtronic.”