Shaziya Khan's Blog: Brands are bought, not sold

JWT's executive planning director Shaziya Khan is inspired by idlis to write this blog post

Apr 13, 2011 11:09:00 AM | Article | Shaziya Khan

Brands that matter are bought, not sold, said an idli to me.
Is that a twist on a technicality ? Or the same difference, as some smugly say?
Or is it indeed a profound view on how to create, craft and steer brands?
Cafe Madras is where this idea dawned. The waiter, swift on his feet, brings the idlis in a jiffy and the bill is even faster, timed to the second you have gulped the last delicious crumb. "Anything else?" he says. Euphemism for "Please leave if you are done eating!" No one in a fine dining place would, but in cafes like these, it is normal. It is expected. It is all part of their legend and charm. The food is fresh, the value immense and the character unspoiled. Stoic, simple, no fuss, down-to-earth. In a word - authentic to the last. And people queue up early, even on Sunday mornings for this . The waiting is on the road, no special treatment, no sweet nothings exchanged to make the wait pleasant. A brusque nod, a quick note of the numbers. They call you in when they can and do not entertain any urgings.
The whole take-it-or-leave-it attitude underscores their unique promise. Cafe Madras GETS its own brand. It does not dilute its Café-Madras-ness. And it's bought. With joy.  Discomforts of heat, crowds, hard seats, brusque and brisk service are not only overlooked, they are elevated as a unique experience! 
That sense of identity determines whether a brand is bought or sold. 
The question to ask is are we creating an idli brand that goes about being true to itself in an in-your- face, undeniable way? Or are we building an idle brand that needs to be hard sold? That universal and unisex directive of standing tall and strong for your values - C'mon, be a man - has a branding equivalent, C'mon be an idli!