5 Things We Can Learn From The Johnny Cupcakes Story

This is the follow up to the 5 Things We Can Learn From The Threadless Story article that I wrote last month. People enjoyed it so I thought I would follow it up with a brand that one of my readers suggested – Johnny Cupcakes!

1. Hustle, It Pays to Sell Things Out of Your Trunk. This is how Johnny Cupcakes made his money initially, by selling tees out of his trunk as he traveled with his band at the time. More importantly, Mr. Cupcakes hustled a heck of a lot so that he could get his tees into as many hands as possible. More importantly, because of his hustle, he created word-of-mouth which caused people to search him out at different shows. The point is, do whatever you can to initially get your brand recognized and you can do this by making it easy for customers in your demographic to get your stuff (for Johnny Cupcakes, this meant selling at the various shows that his customers were attending). 

2. People Like Parody But Like Consistency More. Johnny Cupcakes has made a ton of money poking fun at pop culture. This isn’t new, parody has been around forever. The trick here is that Johnny Cupcakes heavily incorporated its “bakery” theme into his parodies. Everything about the Johnny Cupcakes brand is consistent with the “bakery” theme, from the designs, to the retail store to the outfits that the workers at the retail stores wear, to the website, to the packaging, and on and on. If you have a theme, push the theme 100%. People dig parody, but they appreciate consistency even more. 


3. Stay Away From Chain Stores. Mr. Cupcakes entertained the idea of selling his items wholesale and distributing them to various retail outlets and boutiques. In the end, Johnny Cupcakes decided against this. His argument was that people want what they can’t have and if they are available at every mall then eventually his brand would just become a fad that would fade quickly. Granted, had he gone the distribution route, he would have seen a quick return, however, it could have costed him longevity. So instead, he decided to invest in opening his own, themed, boutique. This worked out pretty well for Mr. Cupcakes. 

4. Extreme Pricing Can Be Enticing. Johnny Cupcakes is able to sell his T-shirts for $35+ because of three reasons: 1) he has built a cult-like following with fans that obsess over his tees, 2) he makes quality products, and 3) he treats these products as limited-edition collectibles (and markets them as such) rather than mass produced goods. Because of those three reasons, extreme pricing, i.e. $35 for a T-shirt, works for him. If you are able to replicate the three stated reasons above with whatever it is you sell, then higher than normal or extreme pricing may work. 

5. Don’t Forget Family and Friends. One of the most important, and probably most loyal, thing that Johnny Cupcakes did was hire close family members like his parents and close friends to work for his company. His mom is noted as handling much of the paperwork involving copyrights and trademarking and his dad is noted as helping him build and construct his first retail store. Not only was he able to keep the brand, “in the family”, but it also allowed people that were close to him to quit their day jobs and actually do something they loved to do (and earn a nice living doing it).

Photos courtesy of johnnycupcakes.com.