Hands down, one of my favorite TV shows right now is Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory on MTV. I actually worked in the skateboard industry out of college (where a lot of my concept of "branding" was born) and met Rob a couple times. He's a smart, charismatic dude and a sharp business man. On one episode of the show, he tells his cousin Drama, who has his own clothing line called Young and Reckless, that he has to "live his brand." They play it up in the show as meaning he needs to do crazy stunts, but when you look into the heart of that phrase, it's pure gold.
You have to live your brand, you have to be dedicated to it and love it and flaunt it at all times and that can become impossible if you're brand blends in with everyone else out there in the market. Before you start your business, you need to give serious consideration to the who and the what of your future brand, you need a strategy.
What's In A Name?
The answer is everything. It's all in the name! Take for example ours, Merci Beaucoup. How did we come up with it? The short answer is it was on a stamp Reva was using to mark her cake boxes. The long answer is we wanted something French, something that evoked the rich history of pastry from that nation. We loved the Eiffel Tower and the fleur de lis as design elements and we knew that if we used a foreign language, it needed to be a common enough word or words that the majority of English speaking Americans would get it. We could debate how successful we were with that last part as more than a few people called in the early days asking for "Marcy," but it's been pretty good otherwise.
Philosophically, the name Merci Beaucoup fits into our concept of dessert being a sweet "thank you" at the end of the meal. A wedding cake in particular is a way to thank your guests for attending your special day. Simply put, we're helping you say "merci beaucoup" to your friends and family.
So let me ask you this, did you put that much thought into your name? Or better yet, do you think you've put enough thought into your name?
I love our fans, you guys and gals have given us so much love and been so awesome. We are proud to be a part of this cake community, but sometimes... sometimes you baffle me. I recently asked people to link to their pages on Facebook so I could find them and "like" them back. More than a few required me to search their business name to find their page (see "tagging" in our Social Media post!) and I got back about a dozen businesses all with the same name or a very close rearrangement of it. It took a lot of effort to find the correct page. Before you commit to your new brand, Google it.
I think most of you know that Reva spent a short time working for a place called The Cake Divas. At that time, they were in a back and forth over trademarks with a woman who called herself The Cake Diva. What's in an "S" right? Well, as of an hour ago, a simple Facebook page search turned up nine different businesses using some form of "cake diva." Beware the buzz words of our industry! Beware using titles like diva or boss or princess. Do your homework, don't fall into a crowd.
The Artist Route
Awhile back an artist buddy of mine, the great Otis Frampton, Tweeted something to the effect of "if you're an artist online not using your real name, you're an idiot." Now, I'm paraphrasing Otis' words, he's much too nice to call you an idiot, but his intention was clear: if your brand is yourself, you shouldn't be confusing potential clients by also marketing a persona. You have to chose, one or the other.
If your brand is you and you want to establish yourself as a cake artist, then using your name is a great idea, but don't go overboard. You don't need to be Princess Sheila's Cakes. Sheila's Cakes is just fine. You don't need to inject common adjectives like "yummy" or "sensational." If you choose to use your name, then keep it simple, keep it direct. If you specialize, like cupcakes or cake pops, include that but don't mislead either. Don't call yourself Sheila's Perfect Pastries if you don't actual make pastries. And hint, cake pops are not a pastry. Okay, now that I've annoyed someone named Sheila out there....
Remember to Google! If you have a common name like Jenny, I'd bet you good money there are at least 20 variations on "Cakes by Jenny" out there already. Reva is not a common name, and there is another woman out there operating as Reva Cakes or something like that. Luckily, we chose Merci Beaucoup, but if you want the personal touch, be open to try new things like initials etc. Explore, play, write a hundred different ones down and take a poll of your friends. But most of all, through all my advice especially, chose something you're comfortable with! If you're gonna use your name, you've got to be proud of it!
Quick quiz: what is the name of Buddy's shop on "Cake Boss?" Even if you're a super fan, you might have a hard time deciding if it is Carla's or Carlo's. The fact is TLC has marketed him as the Cake Boss and while there is no doubt as to the benefit to his business for his time on "Cake Boss," the average viewer (not super cakers like you!) has no idea what his shop is really called. Not to mention, someone didn't Google! The Cake Boss bakery software has been around longer than the show. Conflicting brands anyone?
I see the same thing here in L.A. with High Voltage tattoo. That is Kat Von D's shop widely known as "L.A. Ink." High Voltage is painted across the top of the shop, but they still have a giant window sign of the "L.A. Ink" logo, or else no one knows it's her. She has Kat Von D, High Voltage and L.A. Ink, three brands fighting for attention in one small store front! Yikes!
The Cutesy Route
The subheading for this should be "beware your own sense of humor!" I call this the "Site for Sore Eyes" syndrome. At this point in time, there is no play on words, nor cute spelling, nor witty baking reference that has not been used somewhere in the world. We've all seen the "cup cakery," we've all been willing to "bake your dreams come true," we've all "got what it bakes." We've seen "Kakes" and we've seen "Kups." There's nothing wrong with trying to be witty, or of course being true to yourself and your new brand, but the cutesy route is kind of like the Dark Side of the Force; once you start down that path, much evil awaits you. You need to think twice, think thrice, then think 22 more times before committing to the cute, or even worse, the "kute!"
Example: I will change the names for their protection, but I recently came across a name that was akin to Karla's Cake Kreations. Thankfully, they avoided a horrible mistake in calling it "Karla's Kake Kreations," better known as the KKK! But what did happen was they got cutesy with the spelling of one word and not the other. You have to think forward, you have to cover your angles. "Cake Kreations" looks awkward and like perhaps you actually think that's how you spell "creation." This isn't switching the "R" backwards in Toys R' Us! Purposefully misspelling a word is a bold move, and one that can give the impression you're not a serious business owner.
Being too cute can lead to a feeling of unprofessionalism and if there is one recurring theme in these Shop Talk blogs it is that to be a serious business owner, you need to present yourself as a professional. The choice is yours, the portmanteau possibilities abound, but think and Google and make sure it is a brand you will feel proud of in 10 years. That is to say, something like "iCakes" is probably not the best option. Plus, Apple will totally sue you ;)
Embracing Your Environment
Honestly, I gotta say, Charm City Cakes is a brilliant name. You can basically never go wrong with a nod to your neighborhood, city, or state. Not to mention the three "Cs" offer up some interesting logo possibilities. Interesting street name? Use it. Love your neighborhood? Use it. Empire Cakes, Rose City Cupcakes, Five Burroughs Cakes, Panhandle Pastries, Great Lakes Cakes, Big D Cake Pops, Windy City Sweets, 4th Street Bakery, it goes on and on. I just made all those up, but chances are, I could Google and find at least one of them in business today. Geography is a great way to create a sense of community and immediately involve yourself with the locals.
Keep it simple silly!! This is a lot coming from a guy writing you a 1500 word essay on naming your business, but the goal of any great company is to be as iconic in simplicity as possible. Ford. Four letters and yet one of the greatest brands ever created. Sony. Coke. Apple. Gap. Elvis. They don't even tell you what they do in their name, but the brand is so strong, you read that list and think electronics, soda, computers, clothes, music without thinking twice. It doesn't matter what you're selling, the easier it is to print on a sign, the better.
Putting "cake" or "bakery" in your name is not a bad idea, but don't list everything you do like your filling out a resume. A (bad) example would be say "Mike's Midtown Cakery and Cupcake Shoppe: Purveyors of Cake Pops, Cookies and Designer Treats." Where should I have stopped? "Mike's Midtown Cakery" right? That pretty much said it all, I didn't need to spell out all the other stuff and frankly, calling it a "cakery" implies I make cakes, adding the other stuff is confusing my business model.
Another way to look at the KISS rule is too much dilutes your brand. I see a lot of smaller cake people also offering things like party planning. That's great! Run two businesses, but don't cheap out and try and market them together. "Joe's Cakes and Event Planning" sounds like you're not sure what you want to do with your life and therefore, maybe you're not that good at either. It's like having your dry cleaner double as your notary! Business cards aren't that expensive, have one for "Joe's Cakes" and one for "Parties by Joe."
So, have your name yet? Wanna rethink it? Feeling doubtful about the potential power of your brand? Good. If you want to succeed you need to be tough on yourself, you need to be willing to accept your mistakes. Picking a name should be hard, it should take time because it's the foundation for your entire brand. And when you do decide, love it, share it, live it!
In two weeks we'll return with Part 2 of our Branding discussion where we address the finer points of choosing your logo!