How one goes down the memory lane with slightest of nudge! And, how nostalgia strengthens the bond with a brand!
These thoughts struck me as I read about Starbucks imploring its connoisseurs with virtual backgrounds of its best cafés, sending out downloadable wallpapers - the picture-perfect images of empty rooms, sunlight streaming in through French windows, varnished wood gleaming in afternoon sun, terraces overlooking sprawling coffee estates and more.
And, this made me turn a page on nostalgia, hear the piano all over again, feeling the warmth of my long-lost grandfather chair in a cafe that is now just a memory.
The aroma of coffee and the lilting tunes on a piano! Lush green oasis on one hand and, on the other, a stately luxurious 3 floor ceiling twinkling with faux stars, that looked deceptively real.
The chair I would sit on, was slowly ripping off on its hems. The fading leather, however brought in grandfatherly fondness. My favorite corner, my comfort chair, my sinful indulgence on butter croissants and numerous refills of Irish coffee with dollops of crème – the scene unfolds in sepia tones.
That was the Barista at the Galleria in Leela Palace, Bangalore. And it was a decade and a half ago. Cafes have evolved since then, and mushroomed too. Many a business deals are now inked on coffee tables and toasts raised on dainty china cups, brimming with tepid cappuccinos.
And, as the Barista eventually folded up, I moved to various other cafés in different parts of the city, in search for my ‘zone’ – for I was certain, with Barista, my poetry too folded up, that I would not be able to pen anything worthy without the English gentleman leading me on, with his long fingers floating on a shining piano.
And just like that, on a balmy afternoon, walking on the newly paved sidewalk on the famed Church Street, a bagful of dogeared, pre-loved, books in hand, I walk into a café at the deep end of a sort of food street type collection of a few restaurants, serving distinct cuisine. The place was calm, white glass topped tables, green canopy of some trees, the humdrum of the revelers just a couple of hundred meters away drowned in soft packaged music, seeping through discrete speakers. I seem to have found my zone. The warmth of old grandfatherly chair and the lilting melodies on piano were not missed that much. The coffee was definitely a poor, distant and awfully desolate cousin of my aromatic Irish coffee, the dollop of crème drowned in a slurry. Croissants were not on the menu, but hummus and pita could well stand in. The overwhelming salt in the humus and the elastic drag of pita were overshadowed by the sense of finding a quiet oasis for my thoughts, my zone.
As I opened a 30-year-old book of verse at random, its yellowed cheek yawning, inviting me to turn a brittle page, I heard a few words whispering in my ears. I frantically searched for a pen in my bag, found one, couldn’t locate a notebook that I swear I had kept in it, some moons away. I picked up a tissue and like a lovelorn teenager wrote down the first stream of verse, one that eluded me for many months. I had found my zone, truly and convincingly.
Coffee, corner and comfort – the 3 C’s define the success of any Café, and their assessments are highly subjective. Some people are superstitiously stuck on certain seats a certain café, while some visit at a specific time to say “hullo” to the waiter or waitress for that matter.
The café is more about experience than the food they serve. They feed a more intense need than gluttony.
Café, or teafé as the tea joints have christened themselves, are part of a city’s folklore, they are personal spaces in the blatantly open environment. A space that one can claim as their own, despite having no claim on it in any form other than emotional.
The emotional quotient, the experience is hard to deliver on a digital media. But nostalgia is a great currency to build connect. And, though a static wallpaper is as mundane as smelling a paper rose, they both bring along reminiscence, something that makes brands connect deeper. I am not a Starbucks customer, but I sure find their campaign to bring home the experience in the virtual world, a refreshing idea. Worth a cuppa, what say?