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By 19th July 2016July 10th, 2023No Comments

An old-age disruptor in the new-age style  

It’s one of the myths we marketers have to constantly educate against – the mistaken belief that marketing is a showbiz cover-up, an art of deception.

True marketing is absolutely the opposite; it’s the highly skilled craft of managing perceptions (amongst lots of other things).

One of the greatest examples of this is Häagen-Dazs, the uber-fashionable ice cream brand (and as an ice cream fanatic I’ll admit it’s utterly delicious).

So how have they done it?

Newton Print Haagen Dazs Brand Review Blog


Ironically, the Häagen-Dazs name is utterly meaningless. The founder, American Reuben Mattus, dreamt up this exotic-sounding name. He did it to drag his floundering ice cream business from the threat of bankruptcy.

His philosophy was that, whilst home-grown ice cream was just as good as any other, the Swedes, Danes and co had a better reputation for it. So instead of branding his ice cream with an American-sounding name, he chose something that had a Scandinavian twang.

Mattus did, in fact, help this along by introducing an outline of Denmark on the packaging. His brand was becoming a household name, and many presumed it was a luxury import.

He recognised that first impressions were everything. The prominence of the name on the packaging means that, if the ice cream had a name which sounded similar to every other tub in the supermarket, it wouldn’t ever be able to achieve true penetration. His brand stands out and immediately conveys an impression of the quality and uniqueness of the product.


Way back before the Häagen-Dazs brand was even an apple in Mattus’ eye, he had crafted a tastier form of ice cream using unique ingredients.

He didn’t just do this for the love of making ice cream. He did it because he had to find a way to differentiate.

Up til then, ice cream had become a commodity. With his new recipe, he was able to sell his ice cream at 12 times (yes, 12 times) the price of everyone else. And that was almost 40 years before the brand name was introduced – interesting stuff, eh?

The trick is, he researched his market and went in the opposite direction. Bear in mind, this was the 1920’s when consumer confidence and economic stability were kind of lowish. Sounds familiar?

He was truly an old-age disruptor in the new-age style.

What haven’t they done?


Mattus wasn’t the type to let his top-notch ice cream be degraded by selling just anywhere. He initially sold into only the finest gourmet stores throughout the US to preserve the high price point and brand image.

He then set up genuine Häagen-Dazs stores, directly owned as well as franchised, to keep tighter control of the context in which his product was sold.

This was a clever bit of foresight. At that stage, while the brand image was still being built in the minds of consumers, it would have been lethal to its high price point if he had gone mainstream and let the supermarkets and general stores at his products.

As a result, Häagen-Dazs maintained its position as a gourmet, luxury brand so that when it finally went mainstream it could justify a high price point. Clever eh?


Häagen-Dazs is one brand that has never lost its focus.

Unfazed by the pressures of the recession years on disposable income, this brand has never let itself become ‘cheapened’ by offering a low-price alternative. For them, there is no alternative – a belief summed up perfectly in the company strapline: ‘Nothing is better than real’.

They also haven’t forgotten that it’s about more than just ice cream; it’s about the user experience.

“The Häagen-Dazs philosophy remains the same to this day. We believe that everyone deserves to experience pleasure that is fulfilling and real and this guides everything we do.”

Pleasure is one of the key factors in everyday decision-making. And if the experience is real, tangible and genuinely pleasurable, it must be a winner.

What’s in it for you?

Four takeaways to help you learn from this fabulous brand:

  • Give your customers a real experience. Don’t overlook that fact that, as much as your customers may be only buying a product (or products), they are still seeking a pleasurable experience. Even the most mundane of everyday purchases will attract customers if the experience is unique and appealing;
  • First impressions count. The Häagen-Dazs name is hugely important to them, yet it doesn’t actually ‘mean’ anything in the literal sense. It’s immensely powerful and has helped to convince people to indulge, even before they’ve opened the pot;
  • Find your position and stick with it. Don’t let circumstances dictate you. Remain flexible to a degree, but always stick by your guns. It may seem tough at first, but your customers will appreciate your belief in your principles;
  • Don’t miss the simple things. Something as simple as using real ingredients has contributed to huge success for the brand. It’s easy to over-complicate processes and research and everything else, to the detriment of the simple yet brilliant ideas.

Sources: Shutterstock, <a href=’/free-photo/tasty-vanilla-ice-scoops-in-bowl-on-blue-wooden-rustic-table-closeup_1159960.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>,

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Simon Besley

Author Simon Besley

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