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  • Alan Grové

Cakehead to Cakeout: A pandemic success story


The word might make you think of the episode of Friends involving Ross and the seemingly impossible physics of getting a sofa up a staircase. If however you’re involved in anything to do with marketing or advertising, ‘pivot’ is something you would have had to do at least once in the last two-and-a-half years.

From real world to digital, retail to online, product to purpose, sales to simple survival, ‘pivoting’ is something pretty much every brand from multinational to start-up has had to do in the face of a global pandemic.

In the second half of 2019 we were approached to launch a fantastic confectionary brand into the Cafe, Deli and Garden Centre market. Beyond the obvious attraction of having to sample any number of luscious baked goods in the name of research, it really was a project that was right in our sweet spot. The brief called for eye-catching packaging to stand out in retail, everything would be gloriously tactile and engaging, really playing off the personal ‘I deserve a treat’ moment that people have when they indulge in their favourite brownie or slice of cake. Even the language we used was written with a one-to-one face-to-face conversation between brand and customer in mind.

After half a year of development everything was in place for the freshly branded Cakehead to make its entrance. There would be a trade show launch with a bespoke stand built, samples packaged and ready to be put into the hands of curious customers. It was going to be a chocolate-coated triumph of a launch. And then…

Pivot. As it did for so many people and businesses, the first wave of the pandemic absolutely obliterated every single plan we - and Cakehead founders Helen and Chris - had for launching the brand. Never mind the work we had put into the branding; the money invested into a launch that wasn’t going to happen compounded by Cafes, Delis and Garden Centres not looking like they were going to re-open any time soon put Cakehead as a company into a really precarious position. At this point we had a brand identity we believed in, incredible products and really strong customer service. Everything was ready to go, only we had nowhere to go. So, we went right back to the beginning.

When developing the Cakehead brand, one of the easiest things had been finding their brand purpose. Helen and Chris weren’t new arrivals to baking, they’d been in the business for years before deciding to really build Cakehead. Their belief in cakes and bakes and the good feelings they bring was absolute. Early on in the project we had arrived at ‘Spreading Joy Through Cake’ as the real reason Cakehead existed, and right then - in the midst of pandemic-induced disaster - it was those four words that would show us a new way forward.

A little aside about brand purpose. For it to have any significance or influence it has to be true. In recent years especially, many brands have viewed purpose as an opportunity to jump on the issue du jour (BP and sustainability, anyone?). In the early days of the pandemic, thousands of brands suddenly seemed to magically discover a new purpose around being caring and empathetic rather than making sales, At best, they weren’t being truthful, at worst they were cynically trying to take advantage of customers looking for some comfort - any comfort - in the pandemic storm.

Cakehead on the other hand didn’t need to do that. More than ever, people needed joy and, same as ever, we believed cake could deliver it. We didn’t need to jump ship to another one that we hoped would float, we’d just need to build a slightly different ship using the same materials. Namely a strong brand purpose, eye-catching design, engaging language and, last but not least, brilliant products and service.

The question we asked ourselves was a simple one, ‘How do we continue to share joy through cake when the world won’t let us do it in the places and ways we’d planned for?’

The answer was to develop a sub-brand that used all the work we had put into Cakehead, but shifted the focus from wholesale to getting cakes and bakes into the hands of end-customers directly. And so ‘Cakeout’ by Cakehead was born.

Once the initial idea was there, building on it was easy. Beautiful delivery boxes, product combinations that brought the coffee shop to your home and messaging that really let customers know Cakehead was there to bring a little joy to them were all underpinned by practical considerations like free next day delivery and real care taken with packing to ensure cakes and bakes arrived looking display-cabinet gorgeous.

As for the crucial ‘did it work’ question. The answer was a resounding ‘Yes!’ The pivot to Cakeout meant that plans for building a gorgeous new Cakery in Rutland weren’t derailed, Cakehead actually created new jobs through the Pandemic and, once restrictions were lifted, we found that the delivery activity had garnered plenty of fans who flocked to see us at those trade shows which were finally back on.

As far as principles go, it’s safe to say that the Cakehead/ Cakeout journey has been the sternest test of ours. Three things we’ve definitely learned from the experience:

  1. A true purpose is the best foundation you can build a brand on. We didn’t end up where we thought we would with Cakeout, but we certainly got there by believing in the same things that help us to create Cakehead.

  2. You can’t put a price on a great client relationship. If you work with people like Helen and Chris who have vision, talent and trust in abundance, the work can only ever turn out to be great.

  3. There are few things as joyful as having a Cakeout box delivered to your door. Don’t believe us? Get over to and find out for yourself.


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