April 08, 2014

What's Sweet for You is Sweeter for Sprinkles: The Marketing Strategy Behind the Company's Cupcake ATMs

For anyone who has ever been in “The City that Never Sleeps,” you can certainly relate. You are coming back from an event late at night—be it a Broadway show, a night out at the bar, a high school reunion… you name it—when your stomach starts grumbling. You begin to mentally scroll through a list of possible diners, delis and food carts that may still be open at this ungodly hour. But the truth is you don’t want to consume your calories in Big Mac form. Rather, you want something delectably sweet.

Big Apple desert aficionados everywhere are delighting in the fact that Sprinkles Cupcakes, the innovators of the world’s first cupcake bakery, has brought its 24-hour Cupcake ATMs to the Upper East Side. The company already boasts ATMs in Beverly Hills, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas and Las Vegas—all of which have attracted attention from A-list celebrities like Jay Leno and Wolf Blitzer as well as countless media outlets. New Yorkers couldn’t wait to get their hands on these yummy treats.

The Cupcake ATM operates exactly as you think it would. Consumers swipe their credit card, select a cupcake of their choice, and watch as the robotic arm selects the treat and dispenses it. The high-tech machine can hold up to 760 cupcakes at a time and can dispense up to four cupcakes. Since the device is located in front of the Sprinkles store, which remains open for 12 hours a day, ATM cupcakes will always be fresh, as they were always baked a couple of hours prior to purchasing.

As a New Yorker and someone with a definite sweet tooth, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to steal a few minutes with Sprinkles’ Vice President of Marketing/Social Media Nicole Schwartz to discuss branding strategy and marketing tactics. After all, Sprinkles is a company that has quickly dominated the blogosphere and Twitter landscape, quickly fostering a loyal community of fans.

To get the word out about its newest ATM, Sprinkles relied heavily on an integrated approach to marketing and a great deal on social media.

“Social media is key for Sprinkles since we do not employ traditional advertising,” Schwartz told Content Boost. “We have wonderful followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram who not only share our posts, but go to our Cupcake ATM and create original content to share with their friends.”

The company also relies on traditional PR and media outreach. For example, in advance of launching a Cupcake ATM, the company notifies media so they can be the first to see the machine in action. Sprinkles also rewards its loyal followers with specific marketing campaigns that only its most devoted brand proponents would know about such as Golden Tickets, which are hidden inside boxes at the ATM and are worth anywhere from one dozen cupcakes to a $500 Amex gift card. The company also relies on whispering. For example, the first 50 people who whispered “cupcake withdrawal” at the New York store received a free cupcake from the new ATM.

With so much attention as of late, the company remains committed to honing its brand image and to spreading the word about its unique value proposition as a company that goes above and beyond in answering customers’ needs.

“Stellar customer service is a core component of the Sprinkles mission,” says Schwartz. “It is such a joy to know that someone who drives to work at 6 a.m. can swing by and pick up birthday cupcakes for his coworker before our bakery opens. What’s more, those cupcakes will be fresh!”

“Sprinkles is essentially a 24-hour operation behind the scenes with our bakers arriving as early as 2 a.m. to prepare for the day ahead,” she adds.  

One of the chief lessons we can learn from a beloved brand like Sprinkles is the importance of rewarding loyal customers, partners, clients and stakeholders. The sweets company heavily relies on social platforms to spread the word about promotions and giveaways and also encourages its consumers to evangelize on behalf of the brand. Moreover, the company creates an experience with its core product. The concept of buying a cupcake is not all that exciting in its purest form. It just involves a quick money exchange for instant gratification. But being able to “withdraw” your cupcake, watch the machine work its magic and satiate hunger cravings at any time of the day is truly an experience that creates lasting gratification.

Losing the creativity with your own marketing strategy? Here’s some food for thought: Take a stroll to your nearest Sprinkles ATM—or watch the video if that’s the closest you can get—and remind yourself of just how innovative a consumer experience can really be. Set your bar higher and your bellies fuller. 

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