Resignation by cake — exemplary guerrilla marketing


A small business owner takes the guerrilla marketing principle to heart and achieves a marketing reach he couldn’t have imagined in his wildest dreams.

Yesterday, the Guardian website (along with many others) featured an article about Chris Holmes, a Border Force immigration officer at Stansted Airport, England, who resigned from his post in a unique, and rather sweet way — he wrote his resignation letter on a ten by twelve inch passion cake.

A photo of Chris Homes' resignation cake

For the past two or three years Mr Holmes has been developing a sideline as a baker and decorator of cakes, and runs a small home business under the name Mr Cake. As he states in his letter, his reason for his resignation from the Border Force is that he wants to devote his time entirely to his family and building his business:

“Having recently become a father I now realise how precious life is and how important it is to spend my time doing something that makes me, and other people, happy. For that reason, I hereby give notice of my resignation, in order that I may devote my time and energy to my family, and my cake business.”

His distinctive resignation gesture is a brilliant example of Guerrilla Marketing — with one simple action he has managed to garner attention for his business on a national, even international scale. But, as one of my colleagues asked, “How can that be guerrilla marketing? He can’t have known that it would get into the newspapers?”

No, I don’t imagine for one minute that Mr Holmes thought his story would attract the interest of such august and varied news outlets as the Guardian, Metro, Evening Standard, Daily Mail, New York Daily News, BBC, Fox News, Australia’s, Huffington Post etc., or that the story would go viral on social networks such as Twitter or Reddit. But, in my mind there is no doubt that he saw his plan as part of his marketing, because he finishes his letter with the words “I remind you that, if you enjoy this cake, you can order more at”.

Like the smart small business owner he clearly is, he saw his resignation by cake as an opportunity to promote his fledgling business to his work colleagues, and their friends and families. The fact that the action resulted in a bonanza of free media coverage on a massive scale was an unexpected bonus.

Jay Conrad Levinson, the godfather of guerrilla marketing, states that “marketing is every bit of contact that your company has with anyone in the outside world”. In the world of the guerrilla marketer, marketing is everything you do from the name of your business, through the advertisements you run, to the way your employees answer the phone. Chris Holmes appears to have taken that philosophy very much to heart, and in doing so, has been able to build awareness of his brand on an international scale for the price of eighteen eggs, a bag of flour, a handful of pecans, a few sultanas, a couple of carrots, and some sugar.

About the Author

Nick Irons

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Nick Irons is Co-founder and Creative Director of Tribus Creative Ltd., a brand communications company for small businesses. He spent almost fifteen years in the entertainment industry as a writer, producer, and performer, before moving into branding and design consultancy. He is a fervent believer in the power of storytelling to unlock the value in brands both big and small.