What Cupcakes Taught Me About Marketing Art

By Jeff Slaughter, guest blogger
Living in Europe for the past 13 years has sheltered me from some of the delights of living stateside.  So on a recent trip home to Louisiana I was stunned to find an upscale boutique dedicated solely to selling cupcakes.

Not just any cupcakes, but mouth-watering, blood sugar shocking oversized concoctions in familiar flavors like vanilla, chocolate,and red velvet all the way to the unusual such as peanut butter, key lime pie and banana pudding. The eye-popping display features 21 flavors a day and can hold more than 1,000 cupcakes. And it's not uncommon for them to sell out before closing time.

Now, I like a good cupcake, but I like a good business idea even better. So I was intrigued that a business could focus on such a narrow target - and be successful.

I soon learned that the cupcake craze was a national trend, having already spawned a Starbucks-like multi-store company called 'Sprinkles'. In the Memphis airport this week, I found an article in Inc. Magazine declaring that, 'The Great Cupcake Wars' is full on in our nation's capital, with multiple stores and chains competing for the capital's taste buds (you can find the article on Inc's website). There's even a TV show about the cupcake wars on Food Network!

Really? All that over cupcakes?

But I shouldn't be surprised. Cupcake companies have developed business models that are focused, marketed well and poised for profit. Which is what we should be doing with our art. As artists who are learning to focus, market and yes, make a profit, we should take some tips from the Cupcake Craze:

Here are a few things I learned:

Be creative, but be smart: Create art that people want to buy. I bet the flavors that don't sell well in cupcake shops get dropped like hot potatoes. They want to make money, not just prop their shops with cute cakes.

Market shamelessly: That's right, the Cupcakers have learned to sell using facebook pages, twitter accounts, you tube videos, articles in magazines, even trucks driving around Washington D. C. giving away samples. What are we doing to market our art? Are we so ashamed of it we hope no one notices it? Or are we as proud of our art as the Cupcakers are of their Red Velvet masterpieces? Do we really think our art isn't worth as much or more in marketing efforts as a wad of flour, sugar, butter and eggs?

Don't be afraid to charge....a lot: $3.00-$4.00 for ONE cupcake? Do people really pay that much for one cupcake? Yes, they do, just like they pay $3.50 for a tall latte, $4.00 for a gallon of gas, and $10 for a movie ticket. Starbucks, Shell and Tinseltown know how to make money. So do the Cupcakers.  And so should we. 

I'm going to give you a fun assignment: If there's a cupcake shop near you, get there, buy yourself a nice calorie-laden cupcake, take a big bite and think about how the Cupcake Craze has taken America by storm.

And come up with some ideas about how you might go just as crazy marketing your art.

Jeff Slaughter lives in Brussels, Belgium where he serves in international church ministry, oversees a worship training organization, writes and develops content, and enjoys an occasional cupcake. You can write to Jeff at: JeffKathyS@hotmail.com.


  1. Hey Deby! I pray when I've completed an image and ask what the Holy Spirit would have me to ask for the image price? In the beginning, it was a modest several hundred dollar figure, and I felt comfortable, with this. As the image size and time spent in developing increased, the cost increased. Until it became five figures in the thousands of dollars! When this happened at the first, I was overwhelmed, to say the least! But this work isn't my work, but God's! He goes before, me! He shields, my way!And I am blessed and highly favoured of God, and He surrounds me with His favour as with a shield to protect me from all harm! He has made my path straight and absolutely know what He's doing! Jan

  2. @AnonymousWay to go, Jan. I'm proud of you for putting high price tags on your work. Now . . . adjust according to your sales. I thinks pricing is always a work in progress.