Gopi Ram used to run a small eatery in Giridih (now in Jharkhand), in the year when an unknown batsman named Sunil Gavaskar, made his test debut. The food was good but still, not many were trooping in to grab a bite. A worried Gopi channelled his inner Philip Kotler and announced a discount on all items on the menu.
The move had an unintended consequence. More people walked in and ate heartily but everyone called him a bewakoof (Hindi for fool) for pricing his food so low. Peeved, Gopi decided to publicly chide himself, by rebranding his restaurant as the ‘Bewakoof Restaurant’. The bizarre new naming worked. Overnight, it became the go-to destination for honest food. Today, around 11 restaurants in Giridih are raking in the moolah using the same trick!
If you really analyse this, the success of Bewakoof lay not in its catchiness but in the act of self-deprecation. Several rock bands have been using this strategy for years. Before Kurt Cobain hit upon Nirvana, he ran a punk rock band called Faecal Matter. The idea behind the crappy name was to lower the bar of expectations. Just when you’d expect trash, they’d wow you with their songs. Rap metal band Limp Bizkit took a similar approach. After wrestling with more honourable options like Blood Fart and Bitch Piglet, frontman Fred Durst chose Limp Bizkit as a pre-emptive strike on those who could label their numbers as ‘lame’.
The rewards reaped by the ones who belittle themselves has inspired a spate of names that reek of false modesty. David Bryne, Will Oldham and Michael Brunnock have just formed a rather offensive band called The Pieces of Sh*t. No matter how bad their creations, the critics would be at a severe loss for words while panning them. Then there is this Chicago-based theatre group called Nothing Special Productions. They focus on bringing new works and artistes to light. NSP makes you abandon your baggage of biases and see the plays with a totally open mind. The T-shirt brand Ordinary Clothing exploits the same sympathy-for-the-underdog feeling. So the lesson to learn is: when beautiful doesn’t sell, brand it as ‘Ugly’.
– Anantha Narayan