Symbol of yuppie greed? Haagen-Dazs goes for mass, not class

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Haagen-Dazs this summer will return to the mass advertising medium of TV with a repositioned, more mass-appeal message: fun rather than faux-foreign.

In recent years, the original super-premium ice cream brand has been in a dead heat in grocery stores with its homespun rival Ben & Jerry's and actually was eclipsed by the socially conscious brand in convenience stores. Now, under the new management of Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream and Dreyer's longtime agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, Haagen-Dazs hopes to widen the gap in its favor by bringing its upscale image down a peg or two to make it more approachable and, hopefully, more popular.

different images

"It's hard to find two competitive brands neck-and-neck that are so very different in consumers' minds," said Walt Freese, chief marketing officer for Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry's. As he sees it, Haagen-Dazs has always tried to be more aspirational, "something for the chosen few," where Ben & Jerry's has focused on "fun and irreverance ... super-premium for the people. "

According to industry observers, Dreyer's-which obtained the brand last June when it merged with Nestle Ice Cream Co.-sees the need to adjust the brand's more pompous message to cater to today's reality-TV generation. Whereas Ben & Jerry's was built on being real-driving home its authentic, two-guys-from-Vermont image through grassroots marketing and social-mission campaigns-Haagen-Dazs was built on the false notion that it was a foreign-born brand. "It was a great bluff that played 30 years ago, but doesn't play today," said an executive close to the situation. "While people say Haagen-Dazs is the best ice cream, that doesn't mean they're buying it more."

Another executive added that the new work from the Omnicom Group-owned Goodby, the first national TV for the brand in at least five years, and a new emphasis on online efforts, is expected to shift the Haagen-Dazs image away from its connection to `80s yuppie greed. "Like Porsche, Haagen-Dazs has become associated with those who use the product and not the product itself," the executive said. Haagen-Dazs spent $6 million in measured media for the first 11 months of last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

Burt Flickinger, managing director at Strategic Resource Group, compared the shift in positioning at Haagen-Dazs to that of other prestige brands such as Absolut, Evian and Godiva, who have been driven by competition to tweak their premium images and reach out more broadly to the general market. And, he said, "Haagen-Dazs is taking the correct strategy by going to TV, where the category has been uncharacteristically dark, especially in premium positioning."

Ben & Jerry's, meanwhile, will continue its social-mission campaign with political organization Rock the Vote, offering consumers the chance to register to vote during its free cone day April 27 and waging a variety of online and grassroots efforts to get people to vote. The company will also soon unveil a campaign from independent Amalgamated, New York, which won the business last year. "We wouldn't rule out TV, but we always have to look at how we can do it in a fun, irreverent, Ben & Jerry's way," Mr. Freese said.

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