Wednesday, December 23, 2009
We all scream for ice cream.....!
Goodness gracious me!! As Peter Sellers might have exclaimed at the hullabaloo over Haagen Dazs and its rather silly ad campaign. To begin with, it’s a pretty lousy ice cream. I mean, I find it lousy, over rated and over priced. Upar se, the brand’s entry into India has raised hackles over the tasteless ad campaign that has since been ‘modified’. Are we really that sensitive as to go ballistic over a cup of a hazel nut and raspberry duo that costs the earth? Come on, guys! That corny line about entry restricted to ‘ international passport holders only’ was exactly that – corny! ALL passports by definition are international, remember? What’s a ‘local’ passport?? It was obviously the brainchild of an immature copy writer taking a shot at being extra clever. Clearly, the ad agency got it all wrong, and now the excreta has hit the ceiling. Various groups have banded together to scream, “ Racism’’ and demand an apology if not an immediate closure of the Delhi outlet. My guess is that the person guffawing all the way to the bank must be the marketing director of the ice cream brand. Without spending an extra paisa, Haagen Dazs has become a pretty well known ( or notorious) national name. How easy was that? If one thinks ‘brand recall’ – well, it doesn’t get any better than this.
They say nothing works as brilliantly as publicity that hammers home a message – regardless of what that message is. Repeated often enough, it sinks into our khopdis and there it stays. After a point, not many people remember why they remember it – but the fact remains, they do! Target achieved. So it might be with the Indian consumer and Haagen Dazs – the ice cream with attitude. The one that cheekily and blatantly discriminates against citizens of the host country by excluding them completely. Whether or not it’s true, people fervently believe the brand was serious about banning Indians from its premiere outlet in Delhi. But common sense should tell us this cannot be so. For one, it is illegal. For another, it’s asking for trouble. Big trouble. At the time of writing, public outrage was beginning to snowball into something major. This may change if something juicier diverts media attention, and bloggers discover a new bete noire. But for now, tweets by the nano second are flying around the world mobilizing opinion against the brand’s provocative advertising that got tweeple into overdrive, tearing into the foolish campaign like it was an American conspiracy to keep desis out and destabilize the region. Which , on deeper analysis makes zero sense – I mean which brand in the world would want to keep its main customers out? That’s as good as committing professional hara-kiri. Haagen Dazs is in India to sell ice cream - tons of it - to Indians. I doubt they’d survive if their client base didn’t go beyond the expats of Delhi. They’re here to make us fat on their gooey ice cream – so, why would they keep us out? Make sense??
Excuse me, what’s all the fuss about in that case? I think it is about our thin skins. We have taken offence ( count me in!) at what is seen as a racial slur, a national insult, a crime. Our izzat is at stake and we shall go to any length to protect it. How dare Haagen- whatever from wherever, come into our country and insult our pride? Would this be tolerated by any other nation? Never. But we are all so bloody phus, these arrogant fellows can walk in here and spit on our face. This is too much! It is time we asserted ourselves and told these people where to get off. Haagen Dazs may claim to be the greatest ice cream in the world, so what? We won’t take their barbs and taunts lying down, either. Oh no. We’ll show them! God alone knows what we want to show them. But right now, we have shown them how hyper we are. By over reacting , we have done the brand a huge favour. And made Haagan Dazs into the Raj Thackeray of the ice cream world. It has become a newer, trendier version of the outsider\insider issue. I have watched various people with considerable amusement condemning the ice cream and swearing not to lick a single spoon. This is crazy, considering what a non-issue it is. Haagen Dazs is to India what sarson- da- saag is to America – an acquired taste. We are used to uncomplicated, simple ice creams – vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ( with and without nuts ). Now along comes this fancy brand at an even fancier price and has us frothing at the mouth instead of salivating. Please guys, think ! Haagen Dazs needs our patronage. We don’t need Haagen Dazs. Geddit?
Jaaney do. The latest controversy has led to a free national awareness campaign that would otherwise have cost the brand a huge amount of money. The ice cream is front page news…and a matter of heated debate across channels at prime time. Fortunately for the brand, there is no George Fernandes around to chase it out of India, the way Georgie Boy had chased out Coca Cola. The naara of patriotism and national pride has been raised ( “Yankees go home!”) by alert watch dogs who spotted the offensive line and started a roaring, country wide controversy in a flash ( long live twitter! ). I heard several Dilliwallas holding forth on national television about the audacity of the brand to demand passports before letting customers into the parlour. Someone pointed out India’s fixation with foreign brands and how Haagen Dazs was cleverly cashing in on our weakness by establishing its ‘exclusivity’ and creating an edge over competing products. Frankly, I think the whole hoo- hah is a load of humbug. Indians are bored at the moment. Apart from Sehwag’s performance, there is very little action to distract our attention. Strange that an ice cream brand that chose to launch itself during winter, is generating so much heat. It makes me recall a childhood ditty most of us have repeated at some point : I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. Only this time, we are screaming to throw one particular one out. Chalo – throw it out. But then you’ll have to start looking for a substitute rightaway. We desperately need something\someone to fill the vacated spot. It is called ‘the flavour of the season.’ Right now, the flavour is a bit too bitter for anyone’s taste. Haagen Dazs, hai hai! Kulfi, zindabad!!
About the picture.... it was taken near the famous graffiti wall across Bondi Beach. This is where spray can artists make their name and attract a fan following that can elevate them to overnight cult figures. I am standing in front of a portrait of Chloe - the young Aussie girl who was swept away by the tsunami while she was holidaying in Bali. At least, that is what Marina, our lovely escort in Sydney told me. I was most touched by this memorial and tribute. What a lovely way to remember....