Marketing may seem like yet another thing to add to the ‘to do’ list that isn’t baking, but it’s an essential and low cost way of boosting sales and engaging with a wider audience.

That’s what attendees of last month’s The Artisan Collective event learned. Held at The Compound in Birmingham, the event brought together artisan bakers from across the country to share knowledge and celebrate the first-ever Bakers’ Dozen – the top 13 artisan bakeries in Britain.

Among the discussion panels held at the event, which was sponsored by Bako, Brook Food & Bakery Equipment, Craggs & Co and Dawn Foods, was ’Become a marketing marvel – how to make the most of social media and PR’.

This session offered useful and practical advice on how to market your business while avoiding some of the pitfalls, and featured three expert speakers:

  • Vhari Russell (VR), founder of the food marketing expert, which helps brands get their products in front of larger audiences and grow their sales
  • Catherine Connor (CC) of Britain’s best artisan bakery, Lovingly Artisan. She is responsible for business development and marketing, which was her background before joining the company
  • Matthew Bond (MB), creative director of doughnut supplier Project D. In his own words: “We started in 2018 with no experience in baking or marketing and we’ve really been figuring it out as we go along.”

Here are some of the key takeaways from the panel:


What does marketing and branding mean for a bakery business?

MB: It is letting your customers and fellow people in the industry know who you are, what you’re about and get your brand message out there. What your product is, why they should buy it, why are you different?

CC: Marketing should always generate something, whether that’s a conversation, a sale or customer loyalty. Social media has a major role in our business. It drives sales but we always do it with purpose and real consideration. It is a window into your business, so never put graffiti on it – really consider your tone, your vibe, your message.

VR: Your brand is everything you do. Every touch point, from your customer walking through the door and whether there’s a bell above the door, they are part of your brand story.

Catherine Connor and Aidan Monks in a beautiful bakery

Source: Lovingly Artisan

Catherine Connor and Aidan Monks from Lovingly Artisan


How can I be more effective on social media?

VR: If you can only do one social media channel then pick one and do it really well. Be where your customer is going to be, so if your customer is 45 years old the chances are they will be more on Facebook than TikTok. Consider where your audience will be and where you’re going to get the most gravitas. Scheduling tools can auto schedule for you, which means your content will resonate with the algorithms of your specific social media platforms. It’s not as scary as it sounds. There are loads of tools out there to help.

MB: Being consistent and always being in people’s faces. We’ve seen great success by posting every day, it’s about that consistency. Tailoring different content to the different platforms is also important. Images seem to do a lot better on Facebook now but images on Instagram is dead, in my opinion, and it’s all about the reels.

You can send products out to influencers, who have got huge followings themselves and then they post a video and before you know it their followers link to your page.

You may be thinking how do I handle all my social platforms on a really busy Friday or Saturday?

CC: Many bakers work incredible hours and when we are looking at all of the strategies around social media, it can sometimes be very overwhelming. You may be thinking how do I handle all my social platforms on a really busy Friday or Saturday?

It’s about getting the blend right with the time we have available, and the best asset you have right now in your business is yourself and the conversations you generate with your consumer. The people that have come into your store because they love you and they adore what you do and they will be the best ambassadors you can ever have. They will be your cheerleaders, so if you just do one thing, tell them how good you are, tell them about the product, tell them about the ingredients you use, tell them how to use your product.

When people engage with you, always remember to engage back. And not just with a heart or a like. They need a conversation.

Photographing baked goods for social media

Source: Getty Images


What sort of content should I post?

VR: Talk about the provenance and the quality of your ingredients. The picture is pretty depressing on the back of Brexit so I would say fly the British flag and the fact that you’re making here in the UK. Something as simple as free range eggs is a massive deal breaker for lots of people. 

CC: We use the word British a lot and we share quite openly the ingredients we use and why they are the ingredients of choice. It’s important to give your consumers variety and show the broad view, so you might have a butter you’re passionate about, or a honey you might get from a local beekeeper. 

The other thing that I think is important to people is that they feel like a customer. For us it’s about that relationship and our strategy has always been to talk to the consumer.

Skilled, artisan bakers are a very appealing thing to watch, and people will literally just watch you do it. 

MB: Skilled, artisan bakers are a very appealing thing to watch, and people will literally just watch you do it. You can go live on TikTok and people can watch you on that platform, while you can engage with the people watching the videos.

For us it’s about hitting the trends, which is a difficult thing to do. We have an apprentice Jake, who is 17 years old, and thanks to him we’ve had our huge success on TikTok. I think it’s important to maybe reach out and get help from the younger generation. 

We shot a video that was just us filling ring doughnuts and 14.6 million people have seen that. That’s almost 15 million people on our page that drives traffic to pages where they can make purchases and get engaged in your brand. I would never have posted the video of the doughnut jammer. I thought it was messy. I thought it wasn’t very attractive. But it had almost 15 million views, so it shows it’s important to build a team that will push your boundaries.

@project.doughnut Doughnut pumping 🍩 #projectdoughnut #doughnutday #doughnutfromheart ♬ original sound - Project Doughnut


Turning social media engagement into sales

MB: TikTok has implemented TikTok Shop, which is a store embedded within the app so you don’t need to leave the app to make the purchase. You can watch the video and actually make a purchase. I think Instagram could go down the same route at some point. We all know that in in the modern world you know people are just wanting things as quick as possible.

And with TikTok Live you can live stream yourself on TikTok and people start to watch. And the more views you get, the more people that are watching, then it pushes it out to more people. The other day I had about 450 people watching me decorate a doughnut and then explaining the shipping process, and how we make them, talking about the ingredients. While you’re on that shop, it’s like a shopping channel – it’s very strange.

VR: I would also say if you have an e-mail database, don’t forget that in conjunction with your social media. Growing your database is a really strong way of getting qualified orders. And having a monthly subscriber newsletter does start generating new names for your database.

Shopping via social media

Source: Getty Images


Using awards in your marketing

VR: Awards are a validation for you and your team and all the hard work you put into your products. Winning business awards is fantastic, but from a marketing and PR perspective its important that products win awards as well as the business. There are a plethora of product awards that you can enter. It’s really important that you pick the awards that are right for you and that hit the right people within your audience. They are time-consuming to do and don’t do them lightly – you want to go in to win it.

CC: Awards helps the consumer understand that they’re making good choices. We utilise the awards quite shamelessly at times, and I even make myself blush at times.

There’s a great baseball player – I’m rubbish at sports so don’t ask me who – who’s got the world record for the number of hits in the last minute of the game, but he’s also got the world record of the number of misses – and that’s Lovingly Artisan. We enter a lot of awards. And we win a lot of awards but, my god, if you saw the misses. But the misses teach us, so we analyse them and we learn. None of us want to stand still, we want to move forward, so I would say enter a variety of awards, and make each award teach you because it will prepare you for the next.

MB: With awards you’ve got to pick your battles, stick your neck out and that goes for the marketing side of things as well. I never really wanted to be the face of the brand, we originally wanted more of a corporate image, but I think people really want to engage with those that own the business and have a face to the name – and that is much more engaging from a content point of view.

Three men in tuxedos celebrating winning an award

Project D celebrating their win at the Baking Industry Awards 2023