Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mind-boggling Marketing by McDonald's

We opened the (snail) mailbox a couple of days ago and found a flyer from McDonald's, addressed to us specifically, advertising their new McCafe coffee line. It caught my eye because we'd just listened to a segment on the launch of McCafe on NPR's Marketplace in the car on the way back from C's swim session. I flipped it over and saw this:

A line of Hindi in English script - "Taste ki baat hai", meaning "It's a matter of taste". It was just so totally unexpected that I needed a moment to figure out I wasn't in India. This is not the first time I've had this "clash of the worlds' experience, but it never fails to get me.

P.S. The original "Clash of the Worlds" post is below. We lived in India then and were visiting the US for a "home visit" (and C was known as N on the blog).
N and I were at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) a couple of days after we got to the US to get our car license tags reissued. We took a number to get in line, I filled out the application form and we sat in the row of chairs facing the 17-odd customer service counters. Christmas decorations were everywhere - green imitation pine streamers hung from the doors, windows and ceiling, red bows punctuating them every two feet or so, and red stockings hung from every counter with the name of each employee written in shiny colorful markers across the white furry borders.

As we sat waiting, we read the names on each of the stockings. When we came to the one with lettering in gold-colored marker, I blinked. The name looked like it had been written in Kannada. I blinked again, but it wouldn't go away.

I asked N to go up closer to the stocking and see if it was written in Kannada. He looked at me like I was nuts ("You've got to be kidding, mom"), but he went to the stocking and looked. It said Safiana. In English, of course.

Snippets of conversations I could not catch in crowded places seemed like they were spoken in Kannada. I looked around and there was not a single Indian face to be seen. It's not just me. On this trip, N sometimes thought he heard Kannada too.

This was not the first time my two worlds have clashed in my head. When we're driving around in the US on a stretch of road empty of other vehicles, with relatives or our Indian friends in the car, listening to a Hindi CD, it comes as a complete shock to me when we come to a traffic signal and there are cars with non-Indian faces in them.

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

And my brain doesn't just transplant India into the US. The reverse works very well too.

A few months ago I was at my uncle's house in Bangalore for a pre-wedding family get-together (my cousin was getting married). I was dressed up in Indian clothes, of course, with bindis going a mile up on my forehead and bangles clanging on my wrists. On the way back home I needed to stop at the grocery store for something.

As I was leaving my uncle's house, an image flitted across my head. I was going to show up at the grocery store in all my Indian finery. Just a thought. And an awareness that I would get a lot of stares and smiles and perhaps some questions. A second later it struck me.

Duh! I'm in India! I'm not going to the local Safeway, I'm going to Monday to Sunday!


Sniffles and Smiles said...

What a sense of surreal you must feel when this occurs!!! Great post! Thanks so much for sharing! ~Janine XO

Kavi said...

Taste ke baat hai !! Phew ! It sure must have been one heck of a marketing campaign.

I guess it needs a degree of switch of and switch on !

And however much that switch off and swtich on are powerful, i guess there is indeed a transition time !

Or maybe...relapse time. Mind ki baat hai !


Laksh said...

Been seeing quite a few posts on the "Taste Ki Baat Hai" campaign. I loved your take on it and the link to your old post. Nice one. I could so relate to it.

Ugich Konitari said...

I guess the time isnt far away when "What an idea, Sir ji !" becomes a part of everyday American lingo....

Frankie Anon said...

I loved this post, and the DMV story. I have multi-lingual friends who will shift languages in mid-sentence and not even realize it. I'll have to gently point out that I don't understand Icelandic, etc.

Sands said...

I heard the piece on NPR too but this is pretty cool :)

Cheffie-Mom said...

Stopping by to say hello - have a super day!

DotThoughts said...

OMG. you kidding me. how totally cool! I have not seen the flier. Now I must go to a McDs and have them end one to me!

Altoid said...

Hmmmm 'clash of the worlds' experience. THAT's what its called, huh? :)

I experience this quite often too, just didn't know of a good phrase to describe it, so this is perfect! Usually the day I land back in the US after a trip to India and I take my car out to do some essential groceries, right as I am driving I begin to panic wondering why I am driving on the wrong side of the road, when I am SO not!

Nino's Mum said...

great read Suj, and fantastic observation. I know I'm going to chuckle the next time I go grocery shopping in a sari!

sujata sengupta said...

This is so true for me as well, In the middle of an active conversation in a room full of people I am suddenly somewhere else..hubby says am losing it..I'de like to believe otherwise!! Great post, it made me laugh, liked the detailing on the streamers and stockings.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Tag! You're it! I've tagged you in my recent post! ~Janine XO

Usha said...

On my short trips abroad I have noticed that I am very alive to anything Indian.
When I read the blogs of the Indian diaspora I notice that once they go out of the country they begin to appreciate all things Indian better. I can understand why.great marketing technique by McDonalds!

Sujatha Bagal said...

Janine, surreal just about covers it! And will get to the tag, I promise!

Kavi, yeah, occurs most during the transition time although it's been more than 3 weeks since we got back from India!

Laksh, thanks!

Ugich, heh, that'll be the day!

Frankie, thank you. And that must feel weird when you are at the receiving end of people relapsing into their native tongue!

Sands, did you notice how they said the McCafe line is loaded with sugar?

Cheffie-Mom, thanks for stopping by. My own visit to your space is long overdue, heading there now!

Dottie, I have no idea how we got on their list, but it was something to see it!

Alty, yup! Sounds appropriate, no?

NM, :)

Sujata, commenters on the original post also said how they'd gone through similar experiences. So glad to know I'm not alone!

Usha, yeah, it's amazing how they zoned in on it. Spanish I can understand, but Hindi!

Anonymous said...

I wanted to comment on your last post. What a wonderful, sensitive, strong boy you are raising. I hope I can be half such a mother.

Sujatha Bagal said...

GOTB, you are very sweet to say that, but you know what? I don't know if it's a result of parenting at all. I would hope so, but even if it is, I would not know how to replicate it! I suspect most of us are blindly feeling our way through this journey. And if you want my two cents about you, just from reading the thoughtful posts and comments, I know you will be a good mom. Hugs and congratulations again!

Anonymous said...


thank god at least mcd did not say 'taste ki baat hain.'

i am sick and tired of trying to correct bloggers who say 'hain' instead of 'hai' - starting with that supremo greatbong!

- s.b.

Sujatha Bagal said...

s.b., welcome back! And thank you for that. I always thought it was 'hai' too.

Now please tell me if it's 'pakoda' or 'pakora". I don't understand how the r has come to supplant the d all of a sudden in so many words.