DIY marketing, done well

Lessons learned from a luxury cake business

New Zealand’s artisanal winemakers are in a slightly uncomfortable position when it comes to marketing. Their wines are “of the land, produced by hand,” yet their target customer is often the affluent consumer accustomed to a very high degree of sophistication in branding, packaging, and promotion.

Just to muddy the waters, some artisanal goods might also be categorised as “luxury goods” – whether or not they are owned by the large conglomerates capable of spending lavishly on marketing campaigns. Louis Vuitton? Now part of the LVMH portfolio, but once a small, independent atelier producing exquisite, handmade leather goods. (Our own Cloudy Bay falls into this category: like Vuitton, it is owned by LVMH.)

Janet Mohapi-Banks creates luxury cakes, and her marketing demonstrates a keen understanding of her niche and her customer. Photo by Juliet McKee.

The appeal of an artisanal product such as wine stems from its authenticity – a hard-to-define set of characteristics that encompasses high quality, limited production, and a lineage that’s traceable to an individual craftsperson. Efforts to popularise an artisanal product can alienate loyal customers (and potential customers) who delight in the brand’s exclusivity. And affluent consumers have exquisitely tuned “brand radar”: promotional campaigns successfully deployed in other product categories have a tendency to fall flat in this niche because they may appear too “mainstream” or “crass.”

Conversely, the artisan seldom has the time or financial and staff resources necessary to manage a comprehensive multi-channelled marketing programme (typically, he or she is doing almost everything in-house).

That’s why I’m always on the lookout for artisanal marketing that successfully meets the twin imperatives of manageability and high production values.

Janet Mohapi-Banks sets an enviable benchmark on several counts. The owner of a luxury cake business in the United Kingdom, Mohapi-Banks employs four marketing channels to great effect. All but one are managed in-house:

  1. Website – A portfolio showcasing her beautiful creations (always photographed by a professional), along with useful customer information (for example, a three-tiered wedding cake typically starts at £850).
  2. Blog – Providing additional information about craftsmanship, as well as personal stories, and even baking tips.
  3. Twitter – Used primarily to stay in touch with the trade (in this instance, other people working in the wedding industry and event management).
  4. Public Relations Agency – Contracted to ensure that Janet’s achievements remain in the public eye through media coverage.

So far, Mohapi-Banks appears to have directed her marketing budget towards two areas: professional styling and photography for her cake portfolio, and public relations. What’s lacking – and it’s an important omission – is cohesive branding. Her WordPress theme for the website is different from the Tumblir theme for her blog, and neither one looks anything like her Twitter profile page.

Marketing channels should behave like branches growing on the same tree, so that the artisan’s brand always blooms through the foliage. Many New Zealand wineries are in the same situation as Mohapi-Banks, having created new channels using free templates, without taking the extra step of adding complementary branding to unite the various elements. If you already have branding in place, a graphic designer can ensure that each channel is suitably adorned at very little cost.

If you’d like to learn more about the remarkable Mohapi-Banks and her savvy marketing, The Luxe Chronicles recently posted a great Q & A session. It’s well worth reading.

Postscript

Janet Mohapi-Banks read my post and decided to take remedial action. In the space of about, oh, a day or two (max), she placed consistent branding across all her channels: website, blog, and Twitter. Now, if only New Zealand wineries would take up this challenge with the same energy!

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One Comment

  1. Janet Mohapi-Banks
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Hi Ruby,

    Thank you so much for this lovely piece about me and my business. And also thank you for your comments about how I can improve my communication.

    You will be pleased to know that I have finally got around to fixing the header on my blog and a few weeks ago I changed my Twitter name from @TheArtOfCake to @JMohapiBanks to avoid the confusion that was taking place. Thank you very much for the prompt I needed to get it done.

    I am absolutely thrilled that you like my cakes as much as I like your wine!

    All the best,

    Janet.

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