The baby in the king cake: finding your unique proposition

A few weeks ago, my husband, our two daughters and I cut into a king cake. We found a pink baby and learned — (not really a) SURPRISE! — we’re having a third baby girl. Learning our new baby’s gender with a king cake during the Mardi Gras season was fitting. We’re Louisiana natives, my birthday is on the first official day of Mardi Gras every year, and ‒ as a Louisiana kid ‒few things are more exciting than getting the baby when everyone else just has cake.

What’s so special about a plastic baby in a cake?

I was in second grade when I learned that getting the baby actually means you have to bring the next king cake. Even then, the baby was special. There’s just one in the whole cake. I honestly feel like there were a few “lost years” in my childhood when, for a brief time, a lot of places stopped baking the babies in because they were concerned about choking hazards. Thankfully, my favorite locals retained the traditional baby-inclusive practice.

OK, but what do king cakes and babies have to do with PR?

Simply put, it’s about making the most of your best attribute. There are hot takes all over my social media pages every Mardi Gras about how king cakes are “not that great,” arguments about which bakery’s style is “right” and chastisement for people who eat one before Jan. 6. But the only times I didn’t eat king cakes during Mardi Gras (including the years I lived out of state) were during those few years the bakeries stopped putting the babies inside the cakes. 

What’s special about your organization?

Odds are, other organizations offer some of the same services you do. Start by taking an honest look at what’s different. 

Don’t just say “we have the best customer service.” Quantify it! Say “you’ll never get an automated answering machine during our business hours” or “every call gets answered within one business day.” 

Who are your customers?

What’s special about your organization is likely highly dependent on your customers. If you’ve opened a gas station on a highway that previously had a 50-mile stretch without one, your location is probably your top selling point, and your customers include any driver on that highway. As for the gas station that used to be the “last one for 50 miles,” they’ll need a new selling point to convince drivers to stop.

Do your customers care?

If you’re touting the best selection on brands of bottled water, make sure your customers think there’s a worthy difference there. Do they already willingly pay a premium for Fiji, or are they more likely to get the Ozarka for a cheaper price? Do they buy bottled water at all?

Do your research. What pain points exist with your competition? Ask your loyal customers why they keep coming back. And capitalize on their favorite attributes about your business. 

If your organization has shortcomings, confront them and adjust your expectations accordingly. 

I have a favorite locally owned pharmacy. I know the owners, they never take more than 10 minutes to fill my prescription and their prices are the same as every other pharmacy in town. But they don’t get 100% of my family’s business because they’re only open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. When we need medicine at night or on a weekend, to Walgreens or CVS we go. 

You may not be able to capture the entire share of your customers’ or your area’s business. And that’s OK. But set your expectations accordingly, and make the most of your top-selling points. And if you can make a change, it may help you grow your market share! 

Got any favorite examples of companies that just “do it right”? Sound off in the comments!