Describing a cupcake as sophisticated may seem like an oxymoron, but in the case of Sprinkles, it applies. Long the favorite finger food of preschoolers, cupcakes aren’t just for kids anymore. In fact, everything about Sprinkles defies how we think of cupcakes, beginning with the fact that the flagship cupcake-only bakery café got its start in upscale Beverly Hills.
When founder Candace Nelson and her husband decided to establish a cupcake business using all-natural, high-quality ingredients, they brought in Austrian modernist architect Andrea Lenardin Madden to design the shop and provide creative direction on everything from the retail displays and packaging to the look of the cupcake. Lenardin Madden avoided cutesy kids’ décor and designed an environment with the exclusive feel of a chocolate truffle shop or a Eurostyle cafe, with white oak paneling and wire bar stools for the window-facing counter eating area.
The cupcakes themselves were made to appeal to adults, with flavors like chai latte, ginger lemon and the wildly popular red velvet. Color-coded wafer dots on the swirled icing of each cupcake identify the flavor – an ID system carried out on the printed flavor cards too.
Sprinkles has used colorful round wafers as its brand signature and a way to identify the 20 cupcake flavors it offers. The colored dots on the flavor card correspond with the dots on the cupcakes.
In addition to freshly made cupcakes sold at its retail bakeries, Sprinkles sells its distinctively packaged cupcake mixes by mail order and at gourmet shops nationwide.
Specially designed favor boxes are designed to fit one, two, four, six, or a dozen cupcakes.
Sprinkles packaging and presentation have changed public perception of cupcakes, making them an elegant alternative to wedding cakes and delightful party favors.
The total design experience of Sprinkles appeals to customers as much as the tasty cupcakes themselves. People have found the sweets a great little gift to take to a party hostess, an idea made all the more special by giftboxes with custom die-cut trays inside that hold the bottoms snuggly in place. Nontraditional couples are even replacing formal wedding cakes with towering tiers of Sprinkles cupcakes.
Marketing to the adult demographics has significantly broadened the customer base for cupcakes. Already Sprinkles bakery shops can be found in a half dozen major cities, with expansion slated for over a dozen new locations. Not to detract from the luscious taste of Sprinkles cupcakes, but it goes to show that smart market positioning can transform how consumers think of a familiar product. Just as Starbucks made a beverage that had been around for hundreds of years into a trendy social experience, Sprinkles has taken cupcakes out of the nursery school and into grown-up places.