HAAGEN-DAZS probably did not realise that a sign, meant to tempt the Capitals creme-de-la-creme to its premium international quality ice-creams , would instead put it in hot water.
A day before the US brand opened its first outlet at a south Delhi mall, it put up signboards around the area for an exclusive preview for international travellers with the telling rider, Access restricted only to holders of international passports . An Indian, who saw the sign and was turned away from the store, only because of lack of space due to a weekend rush, according to Haagen-Dazs , took a photograph. He emailed it to a TOI blogger; within minutes it had gone around the globe, inciting a hail of protest that left the company red-faced .
An error was made in the creative execution, Anindo Mukherji, MD of General Mills India, which markets the brand here, told ET, adding more precisely, It was a wrong choice of words, and we regret the error.
As there are no such things as national passports they are after all used only for international travel it was apparent that international was used as another word for foreign . And since the booklets only use once the holder clears an airport immigration counter is a proof of nationality , the clear implication was that only foreigners would be allowed for the preview . It was not, however, intended to be a case of reworking the old British sign, Dogs and Indians not allowed .
No one was turned away because of nationality, insisted Arindam Haldar, director, Haagen-Dazs . I was present on all days. If people were refused entry momentarily, it was only due to overcrowding as there was a rush.
Obviously, Haagen Dazs is here to tap the Indian market, not keep it out, but the words of the teaser campaign left the company vulnerable to the charge of apartheid. And it was compounded by the very poor choice of words by TBWA, the agency that did the teaser campaign.
Upon sustained queries to company officials about the intention of the campaign, it emerged that what Haagen-Dazs really wanted to convey was, Now get a taste of abroad right here in India . But by preferring several long words that are liable to be misinterpreted instead of short, clear ones, they ended up generating a lot of heat: something ice-cream brands, in particular, should steer clear of, if they dont want their market to melt away, thanks to offended sensibilities. Especially, since it plans to open 30 to 40 outlets in the next few years.
Let met tell you my issues with this argument:
- There are no such things as "national" or "international" passports. However, when one says "international passport holders", one generally means people who hold passports of countries other than the base country. Therefore, if you're in India and you're referring to "international passport holders", you are indeed referring to foreigners/non-Indian passport holders. This isn't rocket science, really.
- Phrases such as "Exclusive preview for international travelers" & "Access restricted only to holders of international passports" does by NO means imply "Get a taste of abroad right here in India". Not by a long shot. The only thing it implies is that Indian passport holders are not allowed in! Who are those guys over at Haagen Dazs kidding? Do they really think Indians are so dumb?
- Haagen Dazs has conveniently shifted the blame on to their advertizing agency, TBWA, saying that they chose a wrong set of words, but didn't anyone at the ice-cream company care to check what the agency had come up with & what was finally going out in the market?