Article by Christopher Smith, published by Puro Marketing, 2013.


For more than a year I have been subscribed to a LinkedIn discussion list, with over 500 entries and entitled “In one sentence, what is branding?” The most provocative for me so far is the following definition: “Branding is everything one does to connect business strategy with the consumer experience and turn it into preference and loyalty.”

Branding is everything that one does to connect business strategy with the consumer experience and turn it into preference and loyalty.

When I read it, a conference I had listened last November in Valencia during a meet-up day I was part of, came to mind. The speaker was Sofia Zayac, one of the three founding sisters of Las Manolitas Cupcake Boutique, a cafe in Alicante whose specialty is cupcakes, muffins a somewhat special. What struck me most was realizing that these three young American women had created a business with incredible levels of loyalty based on a perfect branding strategy … and they didn’t even know what was branding!

The phenomenon explains because there is a story behind every successful branding project, a profound concept around which all actions and decisions are comfortably set. By pure intuition The Manolitas had this profound concept and a personal story: it is a tribute to their mother, who had died a few years earlier and whose spirit they have tried to maintain enveloping everything around in this unique coffee shop. The entire place breathes love and brotherhood. Corny? Maybe, but cool … and it works.

The success of their business bases on freshness, creativity, and ingenuity that would be almost insulting for a brainy MBA executive. By simply being what they are and with an overflowing illusion to make every day a little funnier and sweet, at that time they had 7,757 followers on his Facebook page. Today they accumulate 12,212 and if you type “The Manolitas” on Google can surf the 20,200 results. Not bad for a cafe in Alicante.

It is comforting to see how the human spirit triumphs. Without any previous training, but based on intuition and illusion The Manolitas followed a paradigmatic route sheet for a branding process: creating a compelling, meaningful and relevant concept that guides strategic decisions and that unfolds and stages at the four areas of a brand: people (shown in its personality and the way to treat the customer); communication (transferring the idea of home-made and endearing in social networks, and even in the design of communication pieces); product (cupcakes are made daily and decorated one by one with messages and figures. They make different assortments every day, exercising continuous innovation), and the environment (a place where furniture, lamps, and all kinds of recovered and recycled ancient objects collected by themselves, make a cozy space). At the end of the day, Sofia and I were chatting because my lecture had caught her attention and she wanted to consult over some issues. “Do not worry about it, you don’t need any help at all,” was all I could say.

What this case demonstrates is that branding, rather than a science that can be learned, taught or applied, it is an art moved by the heart’s impulses. Dispassionate branding has the same chances of success than a marriage proposal by SMS … or even less. The key to branding is grasping the “why” of the business and, once you have it, it emerges strongly as an ideal, illuminating and showing the way forward. That is the reason why a branding project will not ever succeed if not accompanied by guidance and a strategic thrust from Management.

And so the Manolitas are doing everything so well.