Thursday, December 17, 2009

Volte-Face

If ever there was a lame attempt to save face, this (below) is it. This article was published in the Economic Times today.

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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.

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Let met tell you my issues with this argument:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
Well, guess what...I'm not buying their explanation. Not one bit of it. It's lame and retarded and a desperate attempt to get the egg off their face. And I doubt any self-respecting Indian will buy it either.

4 comments:

The knife said...

Hi, i was going to reply on yesterday's post after I saw the article today.

I smell something fishy. I think they are raking up a controversy. Like they do before movies. Why was it in ET and not in other papers?

Maybe I am too old and need a swig of egg nog to get into the spirit of things

Mumbai Diva said...

also, who the hell turns away people just because they are very crowded. what did they think, ice cream would get stolen or what?

Scarlett said...

@The Knife - I don't think they were trying to create a controversy per se. They must have thought Indians will come flocking to the store if they could get it approved by foreigners first. Since we are so supremely racist. Residual colonial mentality, I guess. Sad it is.

@Mumbai Diva - Haagen Dazs was just trying to cover up for their blunder. And what a lame cover up it was. How does "access restricted to international passport holders only" by any means imply "get a taste of abroad right here in India"??? And I'm sure the hoarding wouldn't have been printed/put up without an approval from the people at HD.

The knife said...

I frankly think people are over reacting on this.

Arnab Goswami kept screaming on times now yesterday that they are saying Indian not allowed.

What they have said is 'international' passports. There is no 'domestic' passport. I think it was an obtuse way of saying that it is meant for world travellers etc. Could have been rendered better.

As far as the person being turned away. was he really turned away bc he was indian? Impossible to believe that this happened in the heart of Delhi ... or was it because the shop was full?

I high proportion of H D customers abroad are Indian tourists after all