The Remarkableness of Context: Lessons from Butcoin, Traffic Bun, Kili Paul & Neema and Gurdeep
While recently exploring the world on Google's Street View, I came across a coffee shop in Tashkent, Uzbekistan that grabbed my attention. It's called Butcoin.
At first I thought it was the Uzbek translation of Bitcoin especially since it's using almost the same logo and font. Here's Bitcoin's logo for reference:
Instead of cryptocurrencies, Butcoin trades in Pringles, Starbucks products and Kinder chocolates.
This raised some questions: What are the trademark laws in Uzbekistan? Has Butcoin been sued? Do Pringles and Starbucks go together?
But the most important question I really wanted answered was: Where can I buy a t-shirt?
I reached out to Butcoin on Instagram to buy a shirt and was immediately denied. Then I started thinking: "Why would I want to wear a t-shirt of a coffee shop in Tashkent?"
I wouldn't wear the shirt in Uzbekistan. It would just be an advertisement for, from the looks of it, a pretty average coffee shop. But here in DC, it would be a conversation starter.
A few days later I came across a hot dog covered in mac-n-cheese in Jakarta, Indonesia. It's a pretty mundane combination but the name threw me for a loop. what struck me was I've also talked about the Michigan Dog. It looks all-American. A hot dog topped with mac-n-cheese. The only thing missing is possibly being wrapped in cotton candy. I came across it in a fast food joint called Traffic Bun as I explored Jakarta, Indonesia on Google's street view. It made me go Hmmmm.
I first had to question people from Michigan if this was a thing or not. It's not. (Well at least according to the folks I spoke with.)
I then had to wonder how this culinary boldness ended up being generated in Indonesia.
But the Michigan Hot Dog was only the beginning. Traffic Bun's menu is an homage to American locations with interesting and incongruent flavor combinations. They also brand each burger with the image of a stoplight...perhaps relishing in the snarled traffic of said locations. (I don't think they put relish on their food though.)
There are Boston Cheese chicken sandwiches, Bronx burgers and even Orizona Hot Dogs. The Kansas Hot Dog looks like it is topped with french fries which I fully support.
The CEO of Traffic Bun, Kak Fadil Jaidi, has images of himself inside every restaurant and, from my vantage point, I would say that he is skilled at using social media. Maybe it is also because it appears that he opens a new restaurant every two weeks! But when you can have a hashtag of #stuckintraffic mean business for you, I think you are doing something right.
But the lesson I am learning from both of these businesses is that success can come from introducing something unremarkable in one part of the world to a new location, thus making it remarkable.
This reminds me of Seth Godin's Purple Cow analogy. He explains that you would drive right past a dairy with hundreds of black and white cows and not do a double-take. But if there were a purple cow mixed in the herd, you would stop to take a picture and then post it. It would be remarkable. Which by definition means to be worthy of talking about (or, in today's world, worth sharing).
There are no better examples of the Purple Cow phenomnom than Kili Paul and Neema who are both social media stars lip-syncing and dancing to Bollywood hits from their home village in Tanzania. Or consider Gurdeep Pandher of the Yukon who spreads joy from his cabin in the woods in the far north of Canada by Bhangra dancing with enthusiasm! The number of people online singing and dancing bollywood tunes and Bhangra steps is probably astronomical...but amid all of the noise Kili Paul, Neema and Gurdeep stand out due to their consistently putting out great content...which is out of context from the norm.
My goal with StreetviewVagabond is to find what is remarkable in this world and share it. It requires seeing things in their environment and recognizing their value for my own context. I look forward to making a remarkable year with these types of findings and observations!