Many consumers erroneously assume, given the name, that ice-cream brand Häagen-Dazs is Danish or German. But it was actually created by a man called Reuben Mattus, a Polish immigrant to New York where he spent his teenage years and his early twenties in the 1950s and 60s working in an ice-cream store. When he decided to create his own ice-cream brand, he paid homage to Scandinavia because his grandparents had been rescued by a Danish family during the war – hence the name.
“So we always talk about the brand as being Brooklyn born but with Scandinavian aspirations,” Gini Sharvill, senior global brand manager at Häagen-Dazs, told the YMS18 conference (London, March 2018). “As the brand grew through the 60s and into the 80s and 90s, it was really cool and ahead of its time, thanks to some provocative advertising, and it grew from this Brooklyn start-up to this huge brand that spread to over 90 countries.”
An important part of the brand’s success has been the use of design as a hook to attract younger generations, and in particular millennials, she explained. But that wasn’t much in evidence in the 1990s, she admitted, describing that decade as “really disappointing” as the brand’s marketers “forgot about the importance of packaging”.