Bakers Journal


December 3, 2007
By Michelle Brisebois

Michelle Brisebois writes about marketing to your customers’ yens.

There are needs and there are wants. Things we have to have and things that are “nice to have.” The baked goods industry caters to both sides of this issue in many ways. Our functional, wholesome, whole grain sandwich carriers are nestled right next to warm, decadent cinnamon rolls bathed in cream cheese icing. Let’s face it: the internal conversation of that patron buying the sandwich carrier is quite different from the one going on in the head of the customer purchasing the cinnamon roll. It’s imperative that you market these products differently to most effectively capture the appropriate target. As we analyze consumer purchase patterns related to our products we need to ask ourselves which baked goods do consumers “shop” for and which ones are they simply “buying?”

A consumer who shops for something is generally more highly involved with the category – they are more interested. It’s good to target this segment because you can typically command higher margins on items that have more perceived value to involved consumers. This is typically your customer who’s a bit of a foodie. They may enjoy cooking and baking themselves, but they also they eat out, and read trendy lifestyle magazines that feature a culinary section. The customer who “buys” something is generally more predictable. This patron just wants to zip in and out to get an item considered a staple in their pantry. Both customers want delicious, fresh, quality items, however, the first patron is more interested in the story and the romance related to the product. This customer wants to know that the cinnamon came from the far-east and that the butter is fresh and creamy. The customer who “shops” for baked goods is probably motivated by a craving. When developing your marketing message, you’ll want to think about why and when these cravings occur. Ideally, you’ll have a hand in creating the craving. Your goal will be to ensure that when the mood strikes – your bakery is the place they head to.

Baked goods are largely foods rich in carbohydrates. Scientists vary on their opinions as to why North Americans seem to crave foods rich in carbohydrates. One theory suggests that a constant state of stress perhaps wreaks havoc with our eating patterns by altering us internally – triggering a yen for carbs. Other psychologists theorize that carbohydrates produce chemicals such as serotonin and tryptophan that calm us down. On the other hand, perhaps we just like the taste and the de-stressing experience comes from rewarding ourselves with a treat. Heck, if we won’t treat ourselves, who will? Make sure you leverage the small indulgence positioning in your external advertising.  Consider street-side signage or sidewalk blackboards that position your products as a mini mental vacation. Perhaps a “Zen and the Art of Truffles” campaign would hit the mark?

The Magnolia Bakery in New York City has developed such a cult following for their cupcakes that they actually limit customers to 12 cupcakes at a time unless they pre-order. This 700 square foot shop produces and sells 20,000 cupcakes per week! The cupcakes were developed originally as a means of using up extra cake batter. Staff was forced to ice the cupcakes in the window due to space limitations. On display for all to see as they walked by was the fact that the cupcakes were fresh. This is “eat-ertainment” at its best. The store became so popular, it was featured on an episode of Sex in the City. Consider a live window display showcasing part of the bakery production process – it’s the first step in the courtship.

Once customers are inside your retail space, seal the deal with merchandising strategies that continue the seduction. You’re dealing with the sensual shopper (selecting product using all their senses) here so it’s important to pull out all the stops. Your operation will probably smell wonderful already. Make sure you bake-off fresh product later in the day – people are more likely to need a reward after a long day’s work than in the morning. Have samples available so they can test the product before buying. In your external advertising, promote the fact that you are sampling product. Some customers may stop in to your bakery planning to just try a taste and end up making an impulse purchase after they see how good it is. Sensual shoppers need to experience the product first, so make it easy for them to do this. You’re selling taste after all – for Pete’s sake, let them taste it! Pump up the merchandising a bit. Take a page from the wine industry and try including some tasting notes beside each item. A shelf talker that waxes poetic about the rich, bittersweet chocolate complemented by tropical orange notes will appeal to the highly involved shopper. Your copy can also suggest pairings with other culinary items. You might promote the fact that your famous fudge brownie “goes well with a bold espresso, a great jazz CD and 45 minutes without the kids.”

If you have a website, leverage this channel to appeal to the sensual shopper. It will allow them to peruse pictures and mouthwatering descriptions at their leisure. Consider developing an e-newsletter that features a new product each week. You can provide detailed product descriptions designed to plant the suggestion that an afternoon treat may just be the perfect way to reward oneself.

A craving is defined as a desire for some particular thing. It’s about having a specific object of affection – nothing else will do. Look for ways to engage all the senses of your customers through your advertising and merchandising activities. The more keenly you’re imprinted on their minds the more your products will be top of mind. This is exactly where you want to be the next time consumers are hankering for a treat.

Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in helping companies grow their brands. Michelle can be reached at OnTrend Strategies by e-mail at:

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