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There are many popular brand names that sound authentically foreign for no reason other than to strategically earn our trust and burrow their way in to our subconscious as exotic.

From the prevalent San Francisco Coffee franchise that was Malaysian born and bred, to the famous Manhattan Fish Market that originated from Singapore – we do not question because we trust the name.

This is a popular move as brands allow us to connect the dots ourselves, making this automatic leap of assumption from imported to top quality goods. It is cleverly deceiving but definitely does the trick. The most misleading brand that takes the cake (or should I say ice-cream cake) is none other than Häagen-Dazs.

It sounds distantly delicious doesn’t it?

In 1961, Reuben and Rose Mattus established this ice cream brand not in the Alps but in the Bronx, New York. Mattus invented the “Danish-sounding” brand name as he felt that Denmark was known for its dairy products and had a positive image in the U.S. The name however is not Danish nor does it have any meaning in any language or etymology before its creation.

His daughter Doris Hurley famously reported in the PBS documentary, ‘An Ice Cream Show (1999)’ that her father sat at the kitchen table for hours saying nonsensical words until he came up with a combination he liked. The reason he chose this method was so that the name would be unique and original.

Häagen-Dazs even tried suing another ice cream brand of the name Frusen Glädjé in 1980 for using similar foreign branding strategies but did not win the court case. Fortunately for them, Frusen Glädjé soon died off and Häagen-Dazs flourished into one of the most popular ice cream brands to date.

Unlike San Francisco Coffee and The Manhattan Fish Market, Häagen-Dazs did not have to spell it out for us, but instead, cunningly place an umlaut (ä) here and a digraph (zs) there, and voilà – instant change of international perception. This was so cleverly done that even over the course of 52 years, people still recognise Häagen-Dazs as a European brand rather than an American.

At the end of the day, it’s about understanding your target and what they’re looking for in your franchise. Whether it’s discerning New Yorkers who want to be reminded of open fields and milkmaids when savouring their frozen treats or us Asians who believe that the West got battering fish down to a tee – its providing your customers with the experience they desire when interacting with your brand.

With that same strategy in mind, I would like to humbly propose similar treatments to certain Malaysian brands that could really do with an International twist:

Döppledecker Crackers – I think the Europeans know a thing or two about double-decker buses, hence why I propose a name change to allude to the consumer that we’re going upscale. As well as changing flavours like Prawn to Scampi and Chicken to Foie Gras, expect your first Michelin star bag of crisps.


Rämly Burger – Giving this already popular brand a German twist, we shall set new standards to the Malaysian hawker business. By also adding a dash of sauerkraut to the mix and replacing the street vendors greasy aprons with greasy lederhosen’s (wearing shorts in this tropical weather will lead to an increase in staff comfort and productivity), we will definitely give those Gourmet Burger joints a run for their money!

Kläud 9 Chocolate – It would be foolish to think that we (or anybody else for that matter) would know more about chocolate than the Germans. That is why a simple change of name and increase in size, is all that is needed. With now a more premium look and name, this local chocolate brand that has already stood the test of time will be soaring through the clouds.


Is your brand giving your customers the experience they hunger for?

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