27
Mar
10

Why is Georgetown Cupcake so successful? Let’s take a closer look.

Pie and I were talking yesterday, as we munched down on cupcakes from Red Velvet. Why is it that, even though some of their cupcakes (and those at other cupcakeries) could go toe-to-toe with Georgetown Cupcake’s, they don’t get nearly the same amount of publicity or business? 

Here are some of our observations, for what they’re worth. 

  • The sisters who own Georgetown Cupcake both have business backgrounds, which translates to a lot of marketing savvy. Look at their packaging, for instance. You see someone walking down the street with that bright pink box, and you know exactly what’s in there. A visual shortcut that tells you there’s something covetable inside, evoking a Pavlovian response in sugar fiends like me. Kind of like what Tiffany’s blue box does for women in general. Ok, not quite. But you get my drift.
  • To that point, the sisters are telegenic and PR-friendly. They’ve been on TV (their own reality show, Cupcake Sisters, is currently filming, though I’m wondering how they’re gonna bring the dramz), in newspapers, magazines, and more. They milk the PR machine, something the other DC cupcake places don’t do as well. They take full advantage of social media. Check out their FB/Twitter promo giving out free cupcakes. Plus they have fabulous names like Sophie LaMontange, which makes her sound like a French countess.

Georgetown Cupcake's lime flavor is my favorite. See the flecks of lime zest in the icing and cake? But it always leaves me wanting more cake to balance the amount of icing out.

  • Georgetown Cupcake was “first to market”–before they hit DC in early 2008, there were bakeries that sold cupcakes–Cakelove, Baked and Wired–but none that specialized in just cupcakes. (Readers, correct me if I’m wrong here.) In business, that’s important in establishing market dominance. Or something like that.
  • Their cupcakes are moist, which is what the people want. There are different preferences out there–some like Cakelove for the old-school dryness because it reminds them of their grandmother’s homemade cakes. But overall, we’re a generation raised on  Betty Crocker mix, which means moistness.
  • Their cupcakes are less expensive than some of the other places. Hello, Red Velvet. A dozen there costs over $39 after tax (whoa). At Georgetown Cupcake, I paid $31.90 after tax last month. No, not cheap, but not unreasonable for boutique cupcakes.
  • They won The Washington Post cupcake wars a while ago with their chocolate ganache cupcake. I don’t think it’s their best, but hey–chocolate’s a crowd-pleaser. When was the last time you heard an American say they hated chocolate?
  • Their prime locations. When I’m in Georgetown Cupcake (or any cupcake place), 75%+ of the customers are women. And women go shopping in Georgetown and Bethesda, their two locations. Add to that the college kids from GWU/Georgetown, and you’ve got a captive audience.
  • They ship around the country, helping to build their brand nationally. (E.g., they were featured in a Wall Street Journal article.)

And that, in part, explains why they’re pulling in millions of dollars a year from suckers like me 😉 

As more players enter the DC cupcake market (Sprinkles, Crumbs), it’ll be interesting to see whether Georgetown Cupcake can maintain its edge. But for now, they’re the queens of the DC cupcake scene.

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3 Responses to “Why is Georgetown Cupcake so successful? Let’s take a closer look.”


  1. March 29, 2010 at 10:08 am

    I agree – being first out of the gate really gave them an advantage. And focusing on being the best in that niche. I think the way they market their business to their customers (flavor selection, secret cupcake of the day) established a loyalty that I haven’t seen with other cupcakeries.

  2. August 19, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    I think a lot of the success comes down to good marketing, creating a recognisable brand, the the ‘telegenicness’ of the two owners… Which all sounds easy enough in principle to achieve but it’s probably got as much to do with luck and being in the right place at the right time too.

  3. May 4, 2011 at 1:09 am

    Georgetown Cupcakes weren’t the first Cupcake shop, Sprinkles was. However, Georgetown was the first in DC.

    Haven’t tried their cupcakes yet, which they don’t have many flavors.


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