3 Brand Building Lessons Learned from Starbucks and Sprinkles Cupcakes


Photography Business Institute
Photography Business Institute


Starbucks did it with coffee. Sprinkles did it with cupcakes. Businesses big and small do it every single day.

What do they do? They take something that has been around for years. Something that is relatively mundane. Something that we all can make ourselves. And they turned that thing into something we’ll pay someone else to do for us. Heck, we’ll even pay a premium for it! If they can do it, we can do it, too.

As small business owners, our products don’t have to be something new and revolutionary. Starbucks is selling coffee which has been around for centuries. Betty Crocker was making cupcakes years before Sprinkles. Many products we all sell, at their core, have been around for years. They may be a little (or maybe a lot) tired. How can we take those things that we sell and make them something worth paying a premium for?

Here are a few brand building lessons from Starbucks and Sprinkles:

1) Experience. From the barista who writes your name on your cup to the sleeve they put around your coffee to keep you from burning your hands, Starbucks took the experience of buying coffee at the local gas station or just getting a cup to the office to another level. They understand that treating their employees well (stock options are offered even to part-timers) translates into a better experience for the coffee-drinker than they can get at the gas station or fast food restaurant. And we’ll pay more for that. What experience can you provide that the competing business next door can’t?

2) Prestige. It’s hipper to have a cup of starbucks than a cup of gas station coffee. You’re cooler if you bring Sprinkles cupcakes to the party versus a dozen from the grocery store bakery. Why? They invested in building a brand. I know, I know, as small business owners none of us have the budgets they have. But you don’t need to. By consistenly delivering an over-the-top product or service, experience and continuing to invest in your brand, you can build an aura of prestige.

3) Convenience. In an age of too much to do and not enough time, who wants to spend hours perfecting their own caramel macchiato every single morning? Who has time to bake a dozen cupcakes that are all perfectly uniform? Most of us don’t. And these companies bet on that and won. Can you infuse convenience into your products and services to help make your clients’ lives easier? If you can, you may have a winner.

Stop sitting around saying everyone is doing what I do. There is too much competition. I can’t make myself different. Get creative. Think of how you can infuse your business with convenience and create prestige and experience that truly makes you stand apart.

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