My Secret Ingredients To Create Brand Hysteria!

After starting out of the trunk of a car in 2001, Johnny Cupcakes has grown to be an exclusive, international t-shirt brand with "faux-bakeries" in Boston, London and Los Angeles and pop-up shops around the world. Over the past 10 years, an inspiring community of collectors has formed, prompting customers to camp outside the stores for up to two weeks for limited edition product releases, while thousands around the world have inked themselves with Johnny Cupcakes tattoos.

But it wasn't an easy road! Here I want to share with you just a few ways in which I have been able to create hysteria around my brand so that you can take away some pointers on how to replicate this in your teams, businesses and lives.

1 – Word of Mouth!

My T-shirt brand started out as a joke! At 19 I was working at a local record store, I had all sorts of nicknames from my co-workers; “Johnny-come-lately” and “Johnny Cupcakes”. One day I was in a print store ordering T-shirts for my heavy metal band when I decided it would be funny to get one printed with my nickname on! I wore my Johnny cupcakes shirt to work the next day and everyone, from staff to customers, were asking me where I got my cool T-Shirt – one week later they were still asking! I even began packaging my tees in pastry boxes! And so Johnny Cupcakes had a name and customers all through word-of-mouth advertising. Whether it be the name, the story, the design, or packaging, it's important to ask ourselves, "Why will a complete stranger want to tell others about our business?"

2 - Weird is Good!

It gets people talking! The Johnny Cupcakes brand is so widely recognized because it stands out – the fact that we have bakeries that sell T-Shirts instead of actual food usually gets people talking, add that to the distinctive logo and the vanilla scent we use in all our stores and we become a memorable brand. Make yourself memorable by doing what nobody expects. I recently was speaking to someone at a sales conference who was trying to land a really big client but he just never returned her calls – so she sent him a chocolate phone that said ‘I was worried you might have lost your phone, here’s a replacement’ – the world is full of average, look at small human to human ways you can do the unexpected. Not only will that one person become a fan, but they will tell everyone they know about the amazing, salesperson, brand, manager that went the extra mile.

3 - Make it an Experience!

One of the special things about our brand is that almost everything revolves around an experience. One October, my team and I personally traveled around the USA, opening up a 1-day pop up shop in almost every major city. To reinvent ourselves and create memorable experiences, I took inspiration from the spooky season. We called this tour, The Johnny Cupcakes Coffin Tour! To further add to the experience, we set each pop up shop like a haunted house, we sold limited edition spooky graphic t-shirts, and we even displayed them in actual coffins! Our social media grew tremendously, we retained brand loyalty by keeping it personal, and we made a nice chunk of money with zero traditional advertising. It's about making each product and customer feel special.

4 – Engage Your Fans directly

If you want to be known more by your peers, or be respected more by your colleagues then go directly to them and take time to find out what makes them tick. At Johnny Cupcakes we know a huge amount of our customers are college kids that like sports, movies and food. So instead of paying hundreds of thousands on advertising, we go to where they are and do the things they love – like Ghostbusters movie nights in store, dodge ball games with donuts at their campus. Once I even invited everyone on my twitter page out for ice cream – 300+ people showed up, I definitely had a lot of fans that day! 

5 - Take a Leap of Faith

As demand for my T-shirts grew, I was still working at the record store, but I quickly realised that making these custom T-shirts was my passion, so I took a huge risk and quit my job. Instead of playing video games and partying I dedicated all my time to building my business. Tired of stepping over boxes, I hired my parents to help me set up my first store. As the business grew I decided to take the plunge by investing in a world-class store on fashionable Newbury St. The rent was huge and it was either going to make or break the brand but backing myself and refusing to be ordinary is how I get to do what I love every single day!

I really want to hear how this works for you and I would love the chance to talk through how we can get some raving fans for your company. I would not be doing this is I were unable to deliver results. Boy, would that be embarrassing for the both of us! Let’s work together and inspire a bunch of people - and you can read all about my topics and experience on my webpage here!

For further information on Ode team or to enquire about making a booking for your next conference or event please contact the friendly ODE team


  • +61 2 9818 5199

United States

  • +1 877 950 5633
My Secret Ingredients To Create Brand Hysteria!

ODE Management is a direct management office for some of the world's greatest disruptors, innovators and thought leaders. The speakers we represent are the best in their fields, each making a global impact due to their passion, experiences or downright audacious insights into the world.

+ View this Speaker's page

Go To Top