Reverse Snobbery Works & How!

05 Dec,2019


By Avik Chattopadhyay


I have a friend in Paris, the tony, fancy part of Paris. He has a four-bedroom apartment in an ornate late 19th century building. Antique furniture, impressionist paintings, a pair of Mings and a Steinway among other collectibles. And he drives a Smart ForTwo! That’s a 2.6 metre two-seater car costing around Rs.5.0 lakhs that just about manages to hold him, his wife and a couple of shopping bags inside. “That’s all you own?” “Oui. That’s good enough. Easy to park. Easy to use. Easy on the environment. Easy on…” “Okay, okay, get the idea. Making a statement, aren’t you? You could afford an exotic Alfa Romeo but wish to make a certain statement with the Smart.” “Voila! You get it. I stay in the heart of Paris in my own apartment. And I use the Smart!”


Reverse snobbery.

That’s what it is. Plain and simple.

Cocking a snook at the ‘wannabees’ who are desperate to flaunt their BMWs and LVs, paying their EMIs through their noses.

This is the “rebel” brand. One that questions straight-jacketed conventions and the holy cows. One that challenges the age-old traditions as irrelevant and ostentatious.


It works. It sure does work.

And quite a few brands have built their raison d’etre on this very platform of standing up and smirking at the typical symbols of status and exclusivity. I have picked my favourite 5, apart from the Smart, that have proven beyond doubt that reverse snobbery is a viable and sustainable space to occupy, both as a philosophy and as a business proposition.



Specifically the G-shock range that has truly transformed the digital plastic cased and strapped watch into a near icon! It goes off the shelves in no time in any part of the world, appealing across age groups. In any premium watch retailer you will see it displayed alongside far more “premium” brands like Tissot, Armani and cK. It is a rage amongst the gen-Z for its sheer larger than life physical manifestation and built in “cool” features that the premium brands do not offer. Swatch did play the same role very effectively till some time back but its absence from the smartwatch segment has seen it slip in the eyes of the beholder. Titan also missed a beat or two with Fastrack in taking it up the image ladder.


Old Monk.

Never could imagine a benign Benedictine padre to be a spirited confidante of millions of homes in India! And also travel across the world bringing both joy and solace to the Indian diaspora. My alma mater has something called OMAXI, the Old Monk Association of XLRI with a ‘chief’ ceremoniously elected and crowned every year! One really committed group I must admit. That glass bottle with the caramel brown liquid has given a beating to some of the biggest global spirits in terms of loyalty, advocacy and also relevance. When your customers release ads on your 60th anniversary you sure know the prayers are on your side!



Yes, the beautiful game came back with a bang with the English Premier League getting into our bloodstream through ESPN a decade and a half back. In a nation obsessed with cricket [still so] and sports like golf and Formula 1 catering to the “elite”, Sir Alex Ferguson came with a sledgehammer and rearranged the living room a wee bit. Football got a bigger footprint beyond its traditional following in Bengal, Kerala, Goa and Punjab. Rich kids went around chilling in Manchester United and Chelsea t-shirts. Then came the wave…La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, Champions League and more. It was cool to discuss Mourinho’s follies in the toniest of parties in Delhi and Mumbai. The game of the masses finally saw a fashionable following in the “class”.



The good old fuddy-duddy school shoe brand is back with a bang! After decades of meandering around directionless, they have finally hit the purple patch. Excellent product portfolio, much improved product quality and most importantly, a new customer base that sees it cool enough to wear and flaunt. The shopping experience has also been taken a few notches higher with a strong online push. The renewed self-confidence is demonstrated by the introduction of an entry-level fast-fashion brand like FootIn. The brand co-existing with the likes of Hush Puppies, Caterpillar, Scholl and Weinbrenner has actually paid off immensely for its own image makeover.


The Scooter.

Its no longer “sissy” to be seen moving around on a scooter anymore. You need not pass off yours as your sister’s before your friends or colleagues. The scooter is cool. Its more responsible. Its more flexible. Its more than a motorcycle. The relaunch of the Chetak by Bajaj tells you that the guys at Akurdi have realised their mistake of vacating this space to competition. The Honda Activa is the largest selling two-wheeler in India. It’s a scooter! The category today offers you a range to choose from based on your personality type – family man = Jupiter, fashionable = Fascino, speed freak = Ntorq, cruiser = Burgman and so on. The scooter looks as aspirational and adorable as any motorcycle. And the fact that it continues to cater to both men and women with consummate ease is what attracts the ‘metrosexual’ to it in droves.


These are my top 5 picks of brands that thrive on reverse snobbery.

Just wish the Tata Nano were also on this list.

Had all the ingredients of being a global icon.

Alas, that is one big lost opportunity…another story…another day…


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