How can ice cream change your branding? A short story about cognitive fluency.

Have you ever wondered about the Häagen-Dazs ice cream phenomenon? They do taste insanely, but let’s be honest – the name itself may seem a little strange. Moreover, it does not fit the marketing trends in any way or form. Yet, they are incredibly successful. 

However, let’s start with the basics – the brain of our potential client. You may not have heard of the term “cognitive fluency” before, but once you learn the definition you will find out that this wonderful brain function is used by all of us every single day. 

   1. What is cognitive fluency?

Cognitive fluency is the level of ease / difficulty of understanding information – the higher the level of cognitive fluency, the more understandable the information is. A low level of fluency means that we need to focus as much as possible on doing something or understanding the meaning of it. A good example here would be reading words that we are familiar with, i.e. easy to read or understand, and specialized words that are completely unfamiliar to us. A similar situation is with fonts – they can be easy to process or very complicated and require more effort from the reader. 

   2. How does cognitive fluency affect marketing?

In everyday life, a high level of cognitive fluency is positive, as it allows easy communication or to perform activities quickly. It would seem that the names of products or brands should be as friendly as possible, so as not to frustrate the recipients or make them overly mentally exhausted. Wouldn’t it? 

A high level of cognitive fluency allows us to process content on a very shallow level, because it is something easy for us. Only a disturbance of this fluency forces our brain to move to a deeper level of content processing. If text is written in a common Times New Roman font, you are less likely to engage with that text than if it’s a little bit italicized or more condensed. So complexity, disfluency is good when you want people to engage more. 

How fonts can change the readability of text.

It’s also perfect for creating a perception of luxury and exclusivity. Every day brands are easy for us to process. They tend to be the brands that are from the country that we live in, and so we’re familiar with the language and those names. But if you think about luxury branding e.g. luxury fashion brands, many of them are Italian or French. Another example – luxury car brands, again, you’ve got a lot of European names (very problematic Lamborghini). It is because we associate those names with something unique or special, like luxury brands are.

   3. The case of Häagen-Dazs

At the beginning, I mentioned the Häagen-Dazs ice cream. The name Häagen-Dazs has an A with an umlaut on top of it, followed by an A without an umlaut. To be clear, there is no language in the world that features an A with an umlaut, followed by an A without one. What is even weirder the name was invented by a man in Brooklyn when he decided to introduce a luxury ice cream to the marketplace. This brand is totally created to sound foreign, exotic, practically Northern European, but in the end it is not clear which country it is exactly from. So, if you want something to seem be perceived as different and interesting, often disfluency is valuable. Häagen-Dazs didn’t want to compete with other ice creams brands. The main strategy goal was to create a unique brand and meeting customers expectations about sophistication, high quality and tradition. And they did it using the name Häagen-Dazs. 

To summarize, sometimes easier doesn’t mean better. Even if our brains love shortcuts, they also love brain teasers, and from time to time it’s good to give them this kind of intellectual challenge. 

When we think about a new brand, first we should consider who our client is and what we want to communicate by the name of the brand, because sometimes the name can change everything! 

27.10.2021

Jagoda Złakowska

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