How Would You Sell Bacon and Beer Cupcakes?
David Arrick thinks most cupcakes are pretty froufrou. His New York City company, Butch Bakery, makes manlier desserts. Its cupcakes, which sell for about $4.25 each, come in 12 flavors, including Home Run, a peanut butter cupcake topped with banana cream and crumbled bacon, and Beer Run, a cupcake made from chocolate, beer, and crushed pretzels. Arrick came up with the idea for Butch Bakery at a family dinner. "I had lost my job as a lawyer, and everyone was pressuring me about what I was going to do with my life," he says. "To get them to leave me alone, I came up with the concept on the spot." After experimenting with recipes in his apartment, Arrick rented commercial kitchen space and began selling the cupcakes online for local delivery. The novel treats quickly attracted media attention. Arrick was invited on Rachael Ray and even landed a book deal. Despite the early buzz, Butch Bakery has struggled to earn a profit. Still, Arrick's goals are to open a storefront, ship nationally, and launch international franchises. What marketing strategy should he take? We asked four entrepreneurs to weigh in.
No. 1: Focus on quality.
Jim Koch, founder of The Boston Beer Company, brewer of Samuel Adams beer
It's great that Butch Bakery has gotten so much press, but the media storm will eventually go away, and the real business will be built through word of mouth. To create that positive buzz, Arrick needs to make sure he can deliver a great-tasting product consistently. No one is going to buy the cupcakes if they aren't good. I like that Arrick is ambitious and wants to take the company national, but he needs to start slowly. He doesn't have a track record or a loyal customer base. He needs to work on that by making sure that everyone who buys the cupcakes has a great experience.
No. 2: Launch a viral campaign.
Gay Gaddis, founder of T3, a digital marketing firm based in Austin
Butch Bakery should advertise with online media companies like Thrillist that are edgy and have that cool-kid factor. I'd also suggest making a funny Butch Bakery video with guys eating and talking about the cupcakes. Putting that on YouTube and the company's Facebook page will help spread the word about Butch Bakery virally online, which can be powerful in generating sales.
No. 3: Do more research.
Warren Brown, founder of CakeLove, which operates six bakeries and a café in the Washington, D.C., area
Opening a retail store is a big step, and Arrick needs to do a lot of research before he does that. Butch Bakery has a lot of different flavor combinations, and the cupcakes sound very involved to make. It takes a lot of planning to take what Arrick has been doing in a commercial kitchen and make it work at the retail level. The more he researches what it takes to run a storefront, the better his chance of success.
No. 4: Play up the ingredients.
Lance Broumand, founder of UrbanDaddy, a New York City–based online newsletter about restaurants and nightlife in 10 cities
This concept is great, and so are the flavors. I think Arrick could do more to highlight the ingredients Butch Bakery uses. What kind of bacon, bourbon, and chocolate are used in the cupcakes? It sounds much more enticing when you can name a specific ingredient or brand. Because several of the cupcakes contain alcohol, Arrick should also consider forming exclusive partnerships with beer and spirit companies.
Feedback on the Feedback:
Arrick liked these suggestions. He says he had already begun pursuing partnerships with liquor brands and will consider ways to highlight other ingredients. He is especially interested in marketing Butch Bakery through online videos, something he hadn't considered. Arrick agrees that he needs to slow down. He says he will do more research and focus on the cupcakes. "I was doing so much press last year that the quality dropped, and I lost customers," he says. "I learned from that, and now I am in the kitchen full time, overseeing the product myself to make sure it's good."