Imagine, chums. Sporting a Baltimore Fog raincoat or spooning Woodbridge ice cream from a package that is marked with a map of New Jersey. So very common. Utterly no pizzazz.
Still, it must be told. The London Fog raincoat has no English ancestry. It is made in Baltimore. And Haagen Dazs ice cream? The ice cream with packaging that features a map of Scandinavia pinpointing Oslo and Copenhagen? Well, it's been made in Woodbridge, N.J., since last year. Before that, its home was the South Bronx.
Gluttons for truth, there is more. Geisha clams from Italy. "Foreign" beers, such as Lowenbrau, that are not imported. Cars made famous by their overseas parents but made now in the U.S.A. And then there is another kind of identity crisis -- the product with an American locale in its name even if the locale has little or nothing to do with its makeup. Philadelphia brand cream cheese, for example. It has never been made in Philadelphia.
Kenneth Rosenblum, consumer affairs commissioner of Suffolk County, N.Y., has made a list of such items. He calls it "Deceptive Geographical Trade Names," though he concedes that some products spell out their origin in labeling, some describe it in code, while others don't say. And in some cases, consumers may not be confused. In others, they may not care. "People don't think Italian ices are from Italy," Rosenblum surmises.
So, the issue Rosenblum raises may be a matter more for education that regulation. But, to Rosenblum, it is also "more than funny." Particularly, he said, when consumers pay more for a product because they think it's imported.
Why is the world sometimes turned topsy turvy in marketing? Why, for example, are Geisha Whole Baby Clams from Italy?
That was the first response of an executive with Nozaki Associates, the distributor. But then the executive of the Japanese subsidiary, a trading firm, elaborated. The company, he said, ferrets out Geisha-quality clams with relatively low price tags around the world. So, recently, they came from Italy. Now they come from Thailand.
What about Haagen-Dazs? Reuben Mattus, president of the company, said the thinking was that "giving the ice cream a Danish name or something like that would make it unique. If you look like everybody else, you get lost in the crowd." So a foreign sound, he said, was used to draw attention to a "quality" ice cream.
But, why "Haagen-Dazs" specifically? As far as Mattus knows, it doesn't mean anything in Danish. Nor is it any place he knows of. Haagen-Dazs it Haagen-Dazs, he said, because Haagen-Dazs "sounds good." But, Mattus insisted, the ice cream does have a taste of the Old World. "The concept of this kind of ice cream came from a friend of a friend of mine who was in the ice cream business in Denmark." The concept, he said, was "low-density" ice cream, which, he claims, is ice cream with less air.
So Haagen-Dazs has a friend of a friend in Denmark. Philadelphia cream cheese cannot claim as much. A spokesman for Kraft, manufacturer of the product, said, "It acquired that name at the beginning of this century when it was first made. Philadelphia was known then as the city of good food." The product is made in New York and Wisconsin.
Nowadays, Philadelphia probably doesn't give the product any edge. But, Vermont is still famous for its maple syrup, though there is little Vermont to the Vermont Maid. Vermont Maid syrup was made in Vermont in years gone by, before the lass was in the employ of a subsidiary of R. J. Reynolds Industries Inc. Now, the syrup is made in South Brunswick, N.J.
Now for London Fog. When Myers was ready to bring out a new raincoat with Du Pont's Dacron in the early 1950s, he said, a friend suggested it be called London Fog. "I said, 'You're crazy.' I didn't think it was any good," Myers said, and the company's advertising agency agreed. But when the advertising agency drew up a list of alternatives and showed them to Myers, he recalled, "I said, 'I think they stink, too. Now, I like London Fog.'"
Myers sees no pretense in this. The label discloses the Maryland origin of the coats. Just as the Lowenbrau label discloses its American origin. But for years, the Haagen-Dazs label disclosed its point of manufacturer by listing only a plant code number.
"Unintentionally, I confused the public," have been made voluntarily. And the small print on labels working their way through the distribution network are beginning to say that Haagen-Dazs is "mfd. in USA."