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10 Things All MBA’s Can Learn About Branding from Kat Cole

February 1, 2013 5:43 pm

Kat Cole, the current President of the Cinnabon brand, has done a very good job at managing and expanding the growth of the brand during her tenure with the company. The tough challenge was taking a brand associated most often with airports and shopping malls, and turning into something bigger. Her strong voice and proven successes have continued to be worthy of paying attention to. For people interested in marketing and branding, and pursuing further education to become leaders of tomorrow, there is a lot to learn from the model of Kat Cole and Cinnabon. These are 10 things:

#1 Never Ending Focus on Innovation

Her belief that the company needs to constantly be aware of the market and trying to develop newer, better products to satisfy the markets, is a big part of that. By noticing that many consumers are becoming more healthful, they developed a new product that was smaller in size, thus a more manageable indulgence. More people were likely to stop for a roll that was not so excessive.

#2 Increase Chances to Come Across Cinnabon

Being mainly an occasional indulgence kind of brand, they decided to increases the number of occasions that consumers would be faced with their Cinnabon brand. The average consumer is just not in a shopping mall or airport often enough to generate enough demand to spur additional growth. They have built a broad range of agreements with other large companies, on both consumer products and in licensing arrangements. This has expanded the brand to be more visible and accessible to consumers at all levels.

#3 Growth Through Consumer Packaged Goods

To supplement their presence in airports and malls, the use of the proprietary cinnamon ingredient has been used to enter into agreements with other large corporations to use the name and flavor to boost their own product offering. Pillsbury, Kelloggs, and International Delight are examples of companies that have agreed to used the Cinnabon name and flavoring in their products in order to benefit from the increased sales that come from the favorable name recognition that consumers have for the brand. This creates an entire new market for growth both nationally and internationally.

#4 Growth Through Product Licensing

Another way that they found to use the Cinnabon brand and proprietary ingredient is through product licensing. This involves manufacturing product that includes Cinnabon cinnamon and is made for distribution directly for immediate consumption at their own locations. Taco Bell offers the Cinnabon Delights products, while Burger King now offers the MiniBons at their locations. These agreements have also provided huge growth potential for the brand, not only in current profitability, but in terms of name recognition and increased visibility.

#5 Growth Through Franchise Flexibility

Since there is not a huge growth in the number of shopping malls or airports, they decided to pursue other locations where the consumer might be met by the famous smell that comes from the bakeries, and encouraged to indulge. Agreements have been made with entertainment parks, public arenas, travel plazas, convenience stores, and other places where prospective customers may be. In addition, they have also co-branded locations with other companies within the FOCUS Brands, Inc. umbrella.  Schlotzky’s Deli and Moe’s Southwest Grill are examples of the companies that have opened joint locations with to offer the goods of both companies within the same location. Obviously this kind of expansion also creates more opportunities for revenue, and brand visibility, just as the consumer packaged goods and product licensing agreements have.

#6 Creating New Outlets for Product Development

The Cinnabon Bakery Cafe is a way they are testing new products they are considering bringing to market. The Atlanta location is a genuine cafe that has opened where real customers are purchasers of various foods and beverages, but are also able to be sampled on new products, like PizzaBons, where their opinions and tastes can be considered. This not only tests the new products for consumer appeal, but is also testing the possibility of these cafes becoming another new growth possibility for the Cinnabon brand.

#7 Product Development Through Corporate Diversity

Since she finds that employees within the company come from 4 different generations, she feels the need to tap into the connection that each of them has towards that part of the consumer market. Doing this almost inherently crushes the typical corporate culture of needing to fit into the mold or needing to find another job. It is the learning to balance all of these various personalities and characteristics that makes Cinnabon most able to serve the many segments of the market. Kat Cole believes the results from these diverse groups is what keeps innovation through product development going within her company.

#8 Never Lose Sight of Core Business While Pursuing New Ventures

Kat Cole believes that the mistake most companies make in looking into new growth opportunities is to lose sight of the core business and how fundamental it is to their futures. She has put a high importance on the re-imaging of their retail locations, and bringing about a freshened look to them. Letting them just live on with the style and look that they started with over 25 years ago is not how they stay current and relevant in consumers’ eyes. The new look is more modern and sleek, reflecting their updated image.

#9 Carefully Shifting Brand Association

In order to not be put aside during the times of healthful thinking, there has been care to capitalize on the fact that many consumers associate the Cinnabon brand with indulgence more than they do with the actual cinnamon roll covered with creamy icing. By using that to their advantage they have introduced products such as oatmeal, waffles, and cereals that healthful consumers would eat, even if they would never consider buying a large roll at the airport or mall. This shift will open up their minds to future products that may be offered using the Cinnabon name.

#10 International Markets Offer Challenges and Opportunities

Kat Cole had extensive international experience earlier in her career in opening dining locations around the world. That brought her experience in dealing with many of the countries and cultures from around the world. This gives her the additional insight of considering international markets, both for the challenges and for the opportunities that apply to a certain product offering. By understanding how marketing and branding can be impacted when languages and values vary between countries, a better attempt can be made at succeeding within those markets. Overlooking these factors can make positive results much more difficult.

SEE ALSO: 28+ Online MBA Entrepreneurship Degree Programs

The skills that Kat Cole has succeeded in with Cinnabon can also be an example to the future leaders of how they can bring about growth and change in their own careers. If you are considering a future in marketing where you can use some of the same ideas that she has, you should consider an Master of Business Administration degree where there is a specialty in marketing.

A recent listing shows that a marketing concentration is a good choice for the future business environment.7 Highest Paying MBA Concentrations for the Future lists it as the third highest paying concentration, making it highly sought after. There are many programs for obtaining an MBA that can fit your situation whatever it is. There are even online MBA options for people that do not have the ability to quit their current job or to relocate to a college campus area.


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