Johnny Earle, founder of Johnny Cupcakes, a successful t-shirt business, joined us in Las Vegas this year as the Luxury keynote speaker. Famous for turning his “joke” of a business—t-shirts sold as if they were baked goods—into a multi-million dollar, highly exclusive t-shirt brand with a worldwide following, Johnny Cupcakes knows no bounds when it comes to branding. Johnny and his team do everything from packaging his collectible t-shirts in pastry boxes to pumping cake scent into his stores, and even going as far as arriving at events in a casket—talk about an experience.
Johnny’s keynote was engaging, entertaining and left members of the audience with lots of great takeaways they could immediately take back to their businesses. Kate Nellis, Luxury’s Director of Special Events and Conference, summarized her top five takeaways from the talk:
1. Give your customers something to talk about. Think, what makes your brand different than other brands? What makes people want to come to your store?
Johnny loves a good handwritten note, and it’s all in the details for him—he went so far as to theme his! In one example around Halloween, he put letters in black envelopes with black wax seals and even added “Give Blood” stamps and Dracula stamps for the postage. Johnny even created a social media scavenger hunt in which he placed limited edition t-shirts throughout Boston neighborhoods and fed his followers hints as to where they could be found. He created an experience with individuals and his entire social media following at the same time. Talk about giving a customer something to talk about!
2. Don’t lose sight of why you started your company.
According to Johnny, one of the benefits to starting his company is that he gets to spend more time with the people he loves; he even hired his own mother as the CFO of his company! In order to prevent the thing he built for freedom from feeling feel like a prison, he writes quotes such as “do more of what makes you happy” on the back of all employee uniforms as a reminder of why they are all there in the first place.
3. It’s not always the product you’re selling, it’s the magic behind it. It’s the stories, it’s the experience, it’s all of the items that can’t be replicated by someone else.
Johnny decided to create a uniqueness around his t-shirts: something no one else could take away or replicate, something that defined his brand. His first shirt started with a very tough skull and crossbones design on it. He then quickly added a cupcake on top of it as a way to spark curiosity through the unexpected. People began coming up to his friends who were sporting the t-shirts to ask where they got them. Everyone wanted to add the statement piece to their wardrobes and from there, the demand for his t-shirts was born.
4. Social media is important—find someone who gets it and can be dedicated to it.
There is no question how important a strong social media presence is these days; it’s the first place many people turn before making a purchase. Finding the right person to work on your social media can set your brand above the rest. The right candidate should know which hashtags, content and brand story will set your brand apart from the noise.
5. It’s the little things—handwritten notes to customers, sharing your history or posting your childhood photos—that make people connected to your brand.
One time Johnny took two weeks off of work and hand-wrote birthday cards to all his top customers. He didn’t just say “thanks for your business, happy birthday”—he took the time to learn a little about each customer first to personalize his notes, writing things along the lines of, “I noticed you are from Long Island, that’s where I got married! Lovely state. Anyways, thanks for the support, much love on your birthday, Johnny.” Johnny cites creating lifelong, repeat customers to little things like this.
To learn more about Johnny Cupcakes, visit johnnycupcakes.com.
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