Dec 5, 2019

Why You Will & You Should Choose Pasta Over Upma: An Essay On Fame and Branding


It’s a no-contest. Pasta always wins over people. It’s creamy, exotic and balanced. When it comes to upma, you always end up biting on a piece of chilli upon which your brain yells “Fire in the hole!

But, there’s an essential reason why you’d choose pasta over upma. It’s the same reason you’d choose a pizza from Domino’s over say, a pizza from Shiv’s Pizza Place. It’s not that Shiv’s Pizza Place isn’t good enough. It’s not that Shiv doesn’t keep his tables clean or that his staff isn’t polite enough. It’s just that Domino’s is reliable. Shiv might make tastier pizzas than Domino’s; they might be considerably cheaper than Domino’s. But with Domino’s, you are positive that you won’t get sick. It’s not that Shiv uses cheaper ingredients. It’s just that Shiv isn’t reliable because Domino’s has placed ads wherever you go, assuring you not that they use quality ingredients or have passed all compliance tests, but that they are famous AF.

In this world, fame beats everything. Pasta is world renowned. As an Indian, you may have been eating upma since childhood. But, once you were introduced to pasta and the culture surrounding it, you no longer care about upma. The title of this essay reads “Why you will & you should choose pasta over upma.” We don’t mean to criticise upma, we just feel that pasta has achieved something that upma will take decades of marketing to achieve.


Take The Curious Case of Avocados…

Avocados have been in the market since the dawn of the twentieth century but the fruit had to wait for over ninety years to receive an ounce of popularity mainly because of the anti-avocado movement that rose in the late 1960s (the fruit is rich in monounsaturated fat). The avocado industry needed a saviour and it came from Mexico: guacamole.

Mexican food became popular in the late 1960s and soon became a part of American culture. Guacamole was introduced as an alternative dip for Mexican food such as tacos, nachos and even the chimichangas. In 1992, a genius marketing campaign changed the fate of avocados. Guacamole became famous and people started accepting avocados into other food forms. Today, everywhere you turn and look, there’s an avocado. In some societies, if you openly admit that you find avocados or guacamole to be disgusting, you are more likely to be shunned by your peers.


A Lesson From The Cheese Burst Crust

Cheese Burst is both a great and a terrible idea. It’s great because no other pizza chain at that time risked it and Domino’s went all-in. It’s terrible because the taste sucks and you’ll feel deep remorse after eating one. Having said that, cheese burst isn’t a bad crust at all. It is one of the most popular pizza bases in India. Ironically, in second place, you have the thin crust. 

What does that mean? Both the guiltless diner and the conscious foodie prefer Domino’s over Shiv’s Pizza Place, even though Shiv offers a cheese burst variant and uses better quality cheese than Domino’s who are a restaurant chain and must use the cheese that has been approved by their superiors. It doesn’t matter if Shiv makes better cheese burst pizzas, people are still going to choose Domino’s because fame sells products better than anything else.


Fame… I’m Gonna Live Forever!

Fame makes you immune to PR debacles like a metal ball cracking the window of your seemingly durable new truck. Fame makes you immune to news stories about a massive product recall of cars because the brake wires aren’t strong enough and the engine overheats faster. Fame makes you god. Not the god you choose to pray to when you’re in trouble, but the god you will visit when you need something – food, clothes, electronics, loans, healthcare, etc. What makes Apollo Hospitals better than a CSI Christian Mission Hospital? Apollo Hospital has been branded as the best hospital in many metropolitan cities. Even doctors and training staff choose Apollo over a CSI hospital not because they believe it’s the best hospital but because everybody else believes that it’s the best hospital. Apollo may not be the most successful hospital, but it is the most famous hospital and that’s all they need.



It’s All Durum Wheat

Coming back to the statement made in the title, you will and you should in good conscience choose pasta over upma. Both of them are made from durum wheat (most pasta brands in India use durum wheat over maida due to health concerns). But, one of them makes you personable. It’s not that upma isn’t great (it is!). It’s just that upma isn’t branded as a cool thing unlike pasta. Western influence didn’t just bring us pasta, it also brought us rock music, fantasy fiction, Star Wars, iPhones, Coca Cola, Nike… need we say more.




Final Thoughts on Fame

Be it the underdog or a multi-national company worth over billions of dollars, everybody loves fame and everybody needs it. The first common thing you’ll spot when you compare the most successful brands in the world (Apple, Amazon, Domino’s, et al) will be fame. But, fame doesn’t guarantee success. Theranos became famous for creating a product which it stated would change the diagnostics industry. However, when the news broke that Theranos was defrauding investors, the house of cards came tumbling down. Fame doesn’t guarantee success but it makes people believe in you and hence, the likelihood of your success is greater than that of Shiv’s Pizza Place or Mary’s Medical Labs. If Domino’s made a mediocre pizza, people wouldn’t be that angry as when Shiv’s Pizza Place makes a mediocre pizza.

As a learned person, you might want to debate that it’s in fact success that causes fame. If you, the reader, feel that success causes fame, we’d like to turn your attention to Exhibit A: Kimberly Noel Kardashian. Fame turned Kim K into an international celebrity. Fame created success in the same way a new coffee brand or a new model of phone needs fame to get people talking. It’s not that we needed Robert Downey Jr. to sell us OnePlus phones, but the thought of someone so famous telling us about something that’s equally famous is a big deal. Each brand that we’ve mentioned (except for the ones we’ve made up) relies on advertising, branding and marketing campaigns every year to stay famous. Fame gets you to places you’ve never been to. 

Pasta trumps upma only until the currently fictional Upma Bureau decides to do something about it.

written by Shreesh Shankar