Marketing smart of the day: Häagen-Dazs Five

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With the economy still somewhat slow, companies probably don’t want to be going hog-wild on the R&D spending. Yet at the same time, with consumer dollars tight, companies likely also want to have flashy new products to dangle in front of people, to tempt them to spend what little cash they are shelling out at said company. What to do? Häagen-Dazs has come up with a brilliant solution.

I stumbled across it yesterday after one of my colleagues explained that she doesn’t like eating processed foods with too many ingredients. I don’t have that big of a problem with hydrogenated canola oil and sodium benzoate, but I respect people who do, so I suggested that my colleague try a new sort of ice cream from Häagen-Dazs. It’s called Häagen-Dazs Five, and each flavor has only five ingredients. For instance, the brown sugar flavor (which I’ve had and is quite good) contains only skim milk, cream, brown sugar, sugar and egg yolks. Far from healthful, but definitely simplistic.

My colleague then very smartly asked, How many ingredients does Häagen-Dazs normally have? A quick visit to yields the answer: five.

Here are the ingredients in Häagen-Dazs Five coffee ice cream:

Skim Milk, Cream, Sugar, Egg Yolks, Coffee.

And now here are the ingredients in the regular version of Häagen-Dazs coffee ice cream:

Cream, Skim Milk, Sugar, Egg Yolks, Coffee.

Engineering new products is so complicated. Who has the time or the money? Why not simply repackage an existing product as having some sort of new, beneficial feature—when, in fact, it had that feature all along? As my colleague said: “I hope someone got a bonus for that.”

Now, to be fair, Häagen-Dazs Five is slightly lower in calories and fat (notice how skim milk comes first on the ingredients list instead of cream). And while plenty of regular Häagen-Dazs flavors only have five ingredients (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry), others do have many more. The banana split flavor has 13, including corn syrup and pectin. My colleague is having none of that, thank you very much.

Still, a great little lesson in marketing, no? And, really, we shouldn’t be surprised. Those Häagen-Dazs people (who are now technically Nestlé people) have a history of smart ideas. For instance, which country do you think Häagen-Dazs comes from? Sweden? Norway? Finland?

Actually, Häagen-Dazs was invented in New York City in the 1960s. The name is nonsense, designed to make you think you’re getting some sort special Old World recipe. Though really, it’s just five ingredients.