What My Local Cupcake Shop Teaches You About Messaging

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on February 14, 2013 – 6:02 AM

There’s a cute little cupcake shop on our town’s main street.

The store’s décor is welcoming and whimsical. The walls are painted bright pink, and the stools are shaped like something you might see in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.

My wife and I have passed the shop many times, each time looking longingly through the store window at the display cases, filled with cupcakes lined up in perfect rows—banana cream cupcakes next to chocolate ganache cupcakes next to peanut butter and jelly cupcakes.

We finally stopped in last week. And something the clerk said instantly removed the shop’s magic and made us unlikely to return.

When we entered the shop, I noticed that the store also sold brownies, my favorite. I asked the clerk if the brownies were also homemade, to which she said:

“Nothing in the store is homemade. We get it all delivered.”

With those 11 deflating words, nothing in the shop looked as cute anymore. And for the first time, I noticed that the shop smelled like nothing—it didn’t smell badly, but it also didn’t smell like baked goods. I purchased the brownie, ate it without enthusiasm, and decided to support a different store next time instead.

As we walked away, my wife remarked how different it would have been if the clerk had said something like this:

“We have an exclusive relationship with an award-winning bakery, and we’re the only store in our city that carries them. Our bakery makes 25 types of cupcakes for us every day, and they deliver them fresh every morning.”

We might have still been a little disappointed, but at least that type of response would have preserved some of the shop’s magic for us.

As readers of this blog know, I hate the word “spin.” So this incident serves as a perfect example of the difference between spin and smart strategic communications. Assuming for a moment that both of the quotes above are true, then neither is spin. But only the second message is smart and strategic—and therefore effective.

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Comments (2)

  1. By Tracie Labonte:

    I’ve often said that the positive – and finding – outweighs the negative. So often, we tend to look at the negatives when presenting something to the media instead of going positive. Thanks for the gentle reminder at how to craft better responses to simple and straightforward questions while reflecting your clients needs and wants.

  2. By Brad Phillips:

    Tracie –

    That’s absolutely right. We’re often so aware of the flaws and holes in our own services and products, that we assume they’re flashing like a red light for everyone else. In truth, those same services and products often have many more pluses than minuses, and we need to be mindful of that during our public presentations.

    In this case, I’m afraid they didn’t even realize that “not baked here” was a liability. They can’t fix that messaging problem until they understand that some customers are romanced by the notion that their store is an authentic local bakery.

    Thanks for writing,

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