Cupcakes or T-shirts? No, it’s both.

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It is always interesting to see how a good mix between different retail industries could actually work together to give you a rather unique outcome. The results can be daunting at times, but you wouldn’t really know till you try. An article which I read recently that is shared by one of my respected peers on Linkedin pertaining to Johnny Cupcakes’ success as a cult designer turned entrepreneur further affirms my faith in successful integrated marketing. This man has combined the F&B industry concept with Shopping retail experience. Johnny Earle started off selling just t-shirts from the trunk of his ride. By now, he is recognized as a very successful entrepreneur and helmed the US’s No. 1 Young Entrepreneur of the Year by Business Week. What literally sparked my interest in him is the key question of how did he do it? What made his brand, so highly sought after?

Here’s some background about Johnny Earle –
Earle, 28 years old, begun his career through the sales of t-shirts. He started the quirky idea of selling t-shirts coupled with the cupcakes theme. His current business operations includes 5 boutiques (which he calls it ‘bakeries’) in the US and a store now in London. What makes Earle such a genius is his dedication to provide great experiences for each of his stores. He first started in Boston and as he expanded his empire, he made each of his shops with love and passion. Earle literally dumped his existing capital into the investment for vintage, industrial-sized bakery equipments all for the sake of building the look and feel of his first store.

“It was important for me to build an experience. It was scary, because I was spending all the money I had, just to make people smile. In the business world, most people don’t think like that,” says Earle.

Let us look at some of the possible factors leading to Earle’s success today-

Risk Taker
The adage that there is only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go, holds so true for Earle. He decides that if this is all he’s ever got, then there really isn’t a point in holding back. Look for your goal and worked towards it.

Experience Maker
Earle make it an effort to decor every shop to give his customers a different experience. By taking the pains to really keep every experience special and worth talking about, he successfully make a story for people to tell. He even went down to the core to design how his store would actually smell upon entering. With a bunch of vanilla-scented car fresheners, he placed them around his store giving the shop patrons a scent of vanilla frosting. It really isn’t a real bakery but a t-shirt boutique. Yet, he has went this far just to create that experience down to the granular details.

Look for the RIGHT people
“I teamed up with a company that built stuff for Disneyland and for Universal Studios, and had them help me bring these ideas I had to life. I had no idea what to do with these crazy ideas. I wanted [it] to be just like my other stores, a fashion bakery, except this time I wanted it to be on steroids,” he says.

Looking for the right people and entrusting them to do what you feel they are good at is the key to creating successful brand stories. By being meticulous and fussy with every single details might sound like a perfectionist to you, but there is always another side of the coin. You do not want to end up as an intransigent client who do not trust the people you hire.

Brand Identity
“I just want to bring out people’s emotions through packaging and real design, and through creating experiences,” Earle says.

It always strikes to me that packaging is one of the key elements in branding which had been very underrated all these while. A lot of brands fail to understand that packages are actually the major takeaways that your clients will bring home when they leave your doorstep. Leaving them with a good impression is fundamental for them to strike conversations about your brand on their social platforms. They would most likely share pictures of a fancy box rather than a cheap budgeted carton box or soggy plastic bags. For Earle, he makes sure that instead of some lame plastic bag, the merchandise comes in a little bakery box with his logo embossed in foil on both sides. What’s more convincing is he even had his company tissue paper created just to complete the packaging experience.

Great Social strategy and engagement
“Instead of telling people that you know these products are on sale, or marked down, every other day, which is what a lot of people do, I try to avoid that and instead try and create a conversation on social media,” he says, explaining how he uses the channels. “So people feel like, well, they are actually having a conversation with me.

Earle makes the effort to communicate, engage and listen to his fans and followers on his social channels. He created his own campaigns down to the most personal level. I think it is brilliant for what he has done. Earle tweeted to his customers asking them to actually head down to a local ice-cream parlour and would personally treat them to ice-cream as long as you come wearing the Johnny Cupcakes t-shirt. Very smart move. It not only shows that he cares for his customers, it also shows he would love to provide for them. How many brands are actually doing that? Or rather, do they even recognize the significance of social investments?


Earle’s unrelenting success is not by mere chance or luck. It is his thirst of unraveling and trying new ways to reposition his business that made him who he is today. And of course, the excitement and passion of being an entrepreneur. Are you cut out to be one? Feel free to leave me with your opinions and how you think Johnny Earle would have done to improve.

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