An Interview With Branding Expert, Johnny Cupcakes
Branding expert and founder of the world-renowned t-shirt brand Johnny Cupcakes, Johnny 'Cupcakes' Earle spoke to us at our Knowledge Guild event about building cult-like customer loyalty, creating memorable experiences, and inspiring innovation.
Hey Johnny, could you please tell us about yourself and your brand?
Hi, my name is Johnny Cupcakes. I own a t-shirt brand and we trick hungry people for a living, and I display graphic t-shirts inside of refrigerators. Everything I do is a complete branded experience, it's almost like the Willy Wonka of t-shirts.
I started the company 17 years ago as a joke, and it's grown to be a very successful brand and it's got a lot of brand loyalty. Customers have camped out for up to two weeks sleeping on the streets for limited edition t-shirts, and I've met over 2,000 people with Johnny Cupcakes logos tattooed on them.
What practical advice can you give to businesses that want to replicate the level of brand loyalty your customers show?
I think every company can attain brand loyalty. It's just being a decent human, having transparency, having fun and sharing your brand's DNA - sharing your history because that's one thing that can't be duplicated.
How do you inspire innovation within your company?
You inspire innovation by not saying 'no' and by embracing failure. You have to look at failures as experiments because that's what they are. Failure is as valuable as success because next time you do it again you know what not to do. You can even sell that data and make money of your mistakes if you really want. You can't say no all the time or people are just going to stop wanting to innovate. Put yourself out there. If you keep putting yourself out there and trying new things because something is going to work and when it does work you're going to be ahead of the competition.
You’ve started 16 companies or projects before you were 16, what role has failure had in your success?
Failure has been the best thing for me. I'm a maniac though, when things go wrong I get excited because I have a chance to rebuild and it teaches me to think strategically. I have the chance to hit the reset button and have a fresh start. I embrace failure and I think a lot of people should.
What can audiences expect from your keynotes?
So from my presentation there are dozens of things that people can take away. I would say that the overarching subjects that are more in-depth than others are; building brand loyalty, inspiring innovation, and creating new experiences. Those three things can be injected into any type of business, any type of workforce. Also within my talk I really hit home the importance of creating new experiences through customer service, customer relations, and building brand culture. There are so many little things that you can do for little-to-no extra money immediately to get that excitement into your brand to build that loyalty and culture.
I really help the audience to imagine new ideas and to have the courage and ability to try things they've never done before the talk.
What’s next for Johnny Cupcakes?
Well there are many things - any time, any day - what time is it?
I don't want to give away all of my surprises but we do a lot of pop-up shops all around the world and I do a lot of corporate gifting. We work with some of the clients that book me to speak to create a special edition t-shirt that only the attendees get. We also have little surprises that I donate for a lot of the talks and we'll hide them underneath all of the chairs. At the end of the talk when I hit home the importance of experience, people reach underneath their seats and they get another surprise. So that, with the shirts, creates a home-run when I'm working with some of my clients that I speak for.
Thanks so much for speaking with us Johnny!
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