Friday, August 6, 2010

Haagen-Dazs Lies to Consumers in Taiwan

We all know brands often try to "reposition" themselves when they move to a new market - Mary Kay and Buick marketed as "luxury" brands in Asia, etc. - but sometimes this re-imagining can take the form of BLATANT lying. Take the case of Haagen-Dazs Taiwan for example.

We wrote at length (HERE) about Western brands "fauxscaling" (you heard the word here first!) when they move to Asia, trying through PR, marketing, etc. to become something they so truly are not back home. In Taiwan, Haagen-Dazs (a former joint venture now wholly owned by parent company General Mills), has for years positioned itself as an upscale luxury brand. They've done fairly well at it. The couple dozen retail outlets are nicely appointed, with a "European cafe style" vibe, attracting date-nighters and families. They push elaborate sundaes and confections, the likes of which we would A. never order and B. never find in U.S. Haagen-Dazs scoop shops. On encountering the brand in a supermarket or convenience store, you can expect to pay US$10 or MORE a pint. I know, it's hard to believe that they are able to get away with positioning the brand like this, especially when the other week CVS (a FAR from upmarket retailer) had Haagen-Dazs on special, two pints for $3.

But that's not even the worst of it. When I visited Taiwan Haagen-Dazs outlets, I was often confused by the language on the menus, brochures and other POS items that featured convoluted origin myths, placing the companies birthplace somewhere on the European continent. "That's absurd," I would cry, "Everyone knows that the company was started by Polish (yes, I realize Poland is in Europe) Jewish immigrants who lived in the Bronx and opened their first retail outlet in Brooklyn." But most people just chose to ignore me, or couldn't understand my broken Chinese anyway.

We find our fauxscaling Haagen-Dazs friends are up to no good once again in Taiwan. On their website is an EVEN MORE outlandish bit of lying marketing garbage: "Haagen-Dazs is originally imported from France." That's right, I'm not making it up. In the screen grab below, the full paragraph of Chinese text begins with a line that says that.

The rest of the paragraph talks about how their strawberries come from Poland (um, is that supposed to impress me? I like my Driscoll's from Cali), their green tea from Kyoto and their milk from France. Yes, maybe their milk comes from France but NOT THEIR ICE CREAM. Nor did it ever come from there. It has always come from factories in the U.S. (the mix comes from there and is blended in ASIA, not Europe, not France or anywhere near there). They also have a factory in Taiwan. Even if you don't agree that this is terrible, terrible lying, at the least it is very disingenuous and misleading.

I will tell you one thing though, the lying FOR SURE doesn't end with their website. Based on my experience in the Taiwan market, I can nearly guarantee the local management has trained waitstaff to talk up the "European heritage" and that they "import" their products from Europe. You see, they have been doing this all along. The many, many people I know in Taiwan are all convinced that Haagen-Dazs is a European brand/company. Maybe someday they'll believe me when I shout otherwise.

As we discussed about fauxscaling, there are tremendous risks involved. There could be a local backlash against the brand, and this kind of brand mythologizing could negatively affect their global brand. It's a good bet the U.S. folks at General Mills didn't know their local Haagen-Dazs unit was up to these shenanigans and probably don't really care what they do as long as they deliver results. Of course, that's all good UNTIL they do something that would embarrass the home office. You know, something like lying to local consumers.

Thanks for reading.
Jonathan Gardner

No comments:

Post a Comment