Three Little Birds Bakery and The Influencer Backlash

While it’s the job of PR agencies to reach out to companies and make connections on behalf of their clients, distasteful requests are being called out online – as was the case with the Three Little Birds Bakery. Let me serve you up a slice of a sweet little story where the influencer and their agent got their just desserts.

Influencer Marketing – When Sweet Turns Sour

When Three Little Birds Bakery owner, Rebecca Severs, received an email from the management team of a ‘well-known celebrity,’ asking for free cake – it didn’t go down well. The email read:

We are organising a 40th Birthday Party for a well-known celebrity on the 1st of September 2023 in Manchester. In return for being a supplier for the event, payment would be made in the form of promotion on their socials with over 700K followers, as well as promoted on OK Magazine. They will be crediting all the suppliers on these platforms. The party has a guest list full of celebrities and industry people from TV/film and music, so loads of work would come from it.

The email went on to request a 40th birthday cake for the birthday girl, a smaller cake for her husband (as his birthday was on the day of her party and they wanted to surprise him – righttttt) and 100 cupcakes. The theme? Camp as Tits – obviously. Pause for desk fist bangs and eye rolls.

In response to the brazen email, the bakery said:

I’m so sorry to hear that your client has fallen on such hard times that they can’t afford to pay small businesses for their products. Unfortunately, as my mortgage provider doesn’t take payment ‘in the form of promotion on their socials,’ and my staff can’t feed their kids with exposure on Instagram, I’ll have to decline your very generous offer.

The correspondence between the PR firm and the bakery was shared to the Three Little Birds Bakery’s Facebook page.

As well as receiving over 8K likes and 1.6K shares, the small business also received a host of comments from people backing the bakery and calling out greedy ‘influencers.’ This included many responses from small business owners, all fed up with people wanting something for nothing. Targeting a small business with such a large demand was distasteful, showing no logistical thought or respect for budget and time.

Some followers of the bakery also pointed out that 700K followers for an influencer isn’t even that much of a big deal. And they’re not necessarily wrong. Many celebrities have a much larger following and a greater reach. Plus, we all know likes can be bought, so is it even a thing? The main problem here is that there seems to be absolutely no connection between the client and brand. It is, quite simply, a random request for cake, which most people found to be tacky and pointless.

#Cakegate- What Happened Next?

The cream turned even more sour when the bakery was reportedly threatened with legal action by the very PR team that approached them in the first place. Why? Because they didn’t appreciate being called out on social media. In a temper, PR firm NVRLND made ‘defamation of business’ whining noises – but that didn’t frighten the bakery. In fact, they took to social media again with a salty comeback and plenty of confidence. Those hashtags though.

Again, followers rallied round the bakery, highlighting the PR firm’s nonsense. The below comment was a particular favourite, receiving almost 600 likes from those following the ‘cake gate’ scandal.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the celebrity was also outed as an ex Coronation Street star. This prompted her to post a reply on Instagram called CAKE GATE – The Truth (which seems to have since been removed), in which she claimed that she had ‘no idea those emails were being sent’ and that NVRLND had been ‘completely misrepresented in this matter.’ Hmmmmm maybe?

In an ill thought out addition, she then wrote:

I hope the cake lady got the exposure she was craving, whilst I’ve got journalists knocking on my front door while my kids are playing in the front room. Rebecca Severs, a ‘cake lady’ comes across as bitter. What happened to women supporting women?

Perhaps the ex Coronation Street star should have exited gracefully with a simple comment about being unaware of any cake requests from her PR firm. Less would have been more in this instance. On the upside, the bakery’s social media usage around this case was quick, witty and on-point. This hashtag won’t be forgotten any time soon now will it #georgegallowayoncethreatenedtosuemetooandisurvived.

They turned something negative into a positive by being open, honest, outspoken and responsive with fans. If brands and celebs don’t want to be called out, then surely they need to be more careful with their requests and attempt to form genuine bonds with businesses they have an interest in?

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

The Three Little Birds Bakery scandal highlighted the misplaced confidence of celebs and PR agencies looking for handouts. But NVRLND are not the first to have been ridiculed for wanting freebies. Disgraced reality TV star, Stephen Bear, (currently in jail for revenge porn charges), used to constantly try his luck with brands. One particularly cringe post of his read:

Going on holiday next week and need new beach clothes, sun glasses, bags, the lot. Please tag any brands.

The only positive here is that he didn’t slide into the DMs of brands asking for free stuff in return for exposure. At least, not that we know of.

Real Housewives of Cheshire star, Dawn Ward – who is herself worth millions – was also caught up in a freebies scandal. A representative of hers asked if Dawn and two other Real Housewife stars could enjoy a free meal and drinks at upmarket wine bar Covino – for Insta exposure, of course. Owner, Chris Laidler said:

I just think it’s a shame that they have to operate like that really, abusing their position when so many young girls look up to them as role models.’ He added, ‘I’m working for peanuts, on my hands and knees scrubbing floors and would have been down around £300 for a few seconds of ‘advertising’ on Instagram – it’s just not on really.

Seeing celebs worth millions try to get freebies from hard working business owners with very little effort in return is a massive no-no for me. It hits home because like all writers, I’ve also been asked for free work in return for “exposure.” And whilst that can be a great thing (if the site is actually exposure worthy), the truth is, it often isn’t. The happy ending in the Three Little Birds Bakery story, is that the bakery is busier than ever with thousands more fans and a waiting list for cakes. YAY for small businesses saying no to PR and influencer goliaths!

There’s no doubt about it. Influencer marketing works. In fact, the global influencer marketing industry is estimated to be worth a whopping $21.1 billion in 2023. But there are certain rules that should be followed. And standards that must be met. If there’s not a genuine link between a brand and an influencer, it’s likely to be called out. Yes, influencer marketing works, but not like this! Talk to me about PR and influencer marketing that won’t leave you with egg (and flour and icing) on your face. What do you think about celebs wanting something for nothing? Tweet me @CharliSays

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