No sex please, we’re French. And Danish, German, Belgian and Swedish

When Grand Met bought the American Häagen-Dazs ice cream brand, their plan was to take it international.

Brian Sharp was appointed European Brand Director and charged with convincing tens of millions of consumers that it was time they tried a grown-up ice cream – one with exotic and sophisticated flavours, twice as much cream as anything else in the freezer and a price that looked like a typo – until tasted.

The Häagen-Dazs advertising, created by BBH in London, featured beautiful couples, flirtatious double-entendres and a distinct implication that this new adult ice cream could have aphrodisiac properties.

It was outrageously successful in Britain, so one of Brian’s tasks was to deliver the same sensuous messages on the other side of the channel.

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Häagen-Dazs
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Häagen-Dazs
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Häagen-Dazs
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Häagen-Dazs

But the Germans said it would never work in their market. The French were equally reluctant. “Why must you drop les pantalons to sell ice cream?” The Belgians, the Danes and the Swedes felt the same way.

Trouble? Not necessarily. When you work across multiple markets, you learn to expect the ‘Not Invented Here’ response, and Brian’s answer was to set up a European Marketing Committee.

All the national marketing directors had a seat at the table and a voice in the decision, which, thanks to guidance and not a little cajoling, was an agreement that adult ice cream needed adult messages.

Of course, there would have to be sensitive translation. Oh, and imagery changes to avoid the improbable suggestion that Brits enjoyed sex. But, on the whole, the steamy stuff could stay.

Now there was just the issue of setting up a new factory to make the product. And having dozens of meetings with the new Italian packaging supplier to get agreement on precisely what colour a strawberry was. And working out how to fix a spoon to the inside of container lids, so that Haagen Dazs could be eaten in cinemas and sold through vending machines.

And therein lies a timeless message about marketing. No matter how cool it may sound when you explain that you’re busy creating a new super-premium segment in the European ice cream market, and no matter how sexy are the ads you’re running in six different countries at once, marketing abides by the same rules as every other human endeavour. Inspiration: 10% Perspiration: 90%.