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All Frosting, No Cake?

All Frosting, No Cake? You see it on the grocery store shelves; rows of ready to eat frosting in any number of flavors: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, cream cheese, with and without sprinkles, some of them specially designed just for the next holiday. Frosting is tempting, sweet and delicious. You want to eat it right out of the can. But after a taste or two, it is a little disappointing. Too sweet; leaving you thirsting for something different. Frosting is nice, but by itself, it just doesn't do much for you.

Cake, on the other hand, fills the room with delicious aromas as it bakes, and comes out of the oven warm and delectable, just begging to be sliced and eaten right then and there. Cake is wonderfully satisfying by itself with its soft texture and subtle sweetness. It is the foundation for frosting, but cake has the substance to stand alone.

In our world of marketing, we use the term, "All Frosting, No Cake." We are not referring to actual edible cake, but what do we mean by that?

To us, the frosting or icing on the cake is the "promise" or in business terms, the marketing and advertising. You may see a great fun, engaging or memorable advertising or marketing campaign that entices you to act, but when you do, your customer experience or the product is disappointing. We have all had that experience where the hype doesn't live up to the promise. It looked great and sounded sweet, but there is nothing beneath the frosting, hence, "All Frosting, No Cake."

In working with customers, we look for substance. In other words, is there something valuable to your potential customer that is actually worth marketing? Before you even begin to think about marketing you need to consider the layers of your cake, your brand, your substance.

  • The first layer of your cake is the product or service you offer. This includes your main product, as well as warranties, quality, design, performance, etc. Your product or service was probably the first thing you considered when deciding to go into business, so it is the foundation that you need to build upon.

  • The second layer of your cake is the businesses culture. This layer is all about the beliefs, attitudes, customer service, values, and rituals of the people within the organization. If this is confusing, try to picture the delivery experience at Walt Disney World. If you have been there you can picture in your mind exactly what the environment will be like. Everyone who works there delivers on the Disney brand. It is the culture and work environment the company has nurtured. Your business culture will appeal to particular segments of the market. Be sure your culture matches the market you want to work with.

  • And finally, the third layer of your cake is process. This layer makes it all happen. It is the actual delivery of your product or service—how the customer becomes a customer. If you have a great product and great business values, but just can't seem to get the work done, your cake will fall flat. Customers won't return or recommend you to others. Successful companies know that it isn't just products or services, but how the process works through delivery that creates a great brand.

It takes all of the layers of the cake to make a great brand, and once that is done, then, and only then, do you focus on the icing or frosting. To do otherwise is to make a promise that you can't possibly deliver.

We encourage you to apply the same principal when choosing an advertising agency or marketing firm with whom to partner. In today's business climate, new marketing firms pop up all the time. Anyone with a marketing degree or experience can hang out a shingle. And, because they are in the business, often the "frosting" is very attractive, and sounds amazing. But don't be fooled by that sweet luscious frosting. Make sure there is cake beneath that frosting, and that the firm you choose can truly deliver on those amazing promises.