Your Brand’s First Impression is the Icing on the Cake

One of the first cakes I can remember eating was a spongy Betty Crocker lemon cake with chocolate icing at my grandma’s house. Today my favorite kind of cake is a cuppie called the Boom Boom Pow from a local cupcake and coffee shop made with vanilla cake, chocolate icing, a dollop of caramel, and flaky sea salt sprinkled on top. For some reason I especially love how the icing doesn’t touch the edges of the paper – it means no trace of icing gets left behind and misses consumption!

I want you to think of your brand as a whole cake. The center of your cake—the sponge-y part—is the core of your brand and business vision and made up of ingredients like:

  • what you want to be known for,
  • your expertise,
  • your purpose,
  • your dream clients,
  • and what you deliver!

The more specific, clear, and intentional you can get about these ingredients, the more you will create these “fully baked” inside layers of your brand. Think of it as the difference between making a moist, fluffy, perfectly layered cake versus an underbaked, messy, collapsing one. Brand clarity and an articulate business vision is essential, but unfortunately, it’s not enough.

What’s a cake without icing? That outer layer, the icing, is how you actually show up with your brand positioning, messaging, voice, style, look, and feel. The icing is how you attract and inspire your dream customers – so it should be consistent, irresistible and sprinkled with clues that let them know what they’re promised to get on the inside if they take a bite.

Let me put down the cake metaphor for just a moment, but I do want you to keep that mindset of “inside layers / outside impression” as I share some specific ways your cake brand shows up in the world:


We officially live in a time and place where if you don’t have a website you need one. Think of your website as your online storefront. And it needs to communicate who you are, the work you do, and for whom in an instant. Your brand will show up on your website with things like your name, logo, colors, photography, typography, along with messaging pieces from your tagline to your about me page.

Try this: Look at your website through the lens of your dream customer: Is it clear or maybe a little confusing at first glance who you are and what you offer? And does it feel like you? Does your website reflect who you are and the work you do or does something feel off?


Whether you’re a solopreneur, a brick-and-mortar shop owner, or an organization, your brand lives in your personal style, on your business card, stationery, brochures, and building signage. And don’t forget that your team is a reflection of your brand too! Does their style and attitude reflect what you stand for and what you want your business to be known for?

Take stock: grab a pen and paper and list out all the physical places your brand shows up. Is it consistent?


From your avatar image, to your short 140 word bio, to the content you share – social media has become a primary entry-point for your potential customers and clients – so you gotta make sure you’re making the first impression you want to have on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

On which social media platforms are you sharing your expertise? Is it consistent from platform to platform? Which social media channels have more traction? Why do you think that is?



Let’s zoom out a little. Between your website, your social media presence, and how your brand shows up in-person does everything feel cohesive and clear? Does it feel like you? Does it articulate what you’re really wanting to say in an instance?

If the answer to any of those seemingly rhetorical questions is “no,” you might be having the opposite of an “aha” moment.

It’s okay. Don’t freak out. You can test out small ways to improve your brand cake inside and out.

Hopefully this is just an icing issue. If the problem is in your core (that would be your business vision – your purpose, what you want to be known for, and how your dream customers hire you) then you’ve got some work to do.*

(*Pssstt… think the problem might be in your cake batter? Check out our free eBook: 7 Ways to Brand You and The Work You Do)

But if the problem is just in your icing here’s what you’ll want to do next:

  1. Identify what you want your brand to look like – hop on Pinterest (you can even use our boards as a starting point for inspiration) and begin pinning images you like the look and feel of. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be logos or branding materials – it can be photography, interiors, magazines, textiles, or even food!
  2. Hire a designer & a copywriter – it’s ideal to hire someone who can strategically design the icing (the outward facing parts of your brand people see online and offline—like your website, business cards, and signage) so it creates a reliable expectation as to what the cake underneath will be. And when it comes to copy, a concise tagline and clear brand story will marry your business vision with the outer layer of your brand into one tasty package.
  3. Be consistent – maintaining a brand reputation takes daily practice and vigilance. In other words, you want to nail your cake recipe and show up to every single party with the cake you’re known for.


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