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Johnny Cupcakes’ Ingredients For Customer Happiness: Helping Others and Taking a Stand

Johnny Earle, of Johnny Cupcakes, started selling his bakery-themed, hand-printed T-shirts out of the trunk of his car. Today, he’s turned this one-man operation into an icon-status fashion brand – churning out 75 – 100 SKUs to market each year. While experiencing incredible success, Johnny and his team of “magic makers” have created a brand that is not just enjoyed, but revered, by a loyal following that’s been known to wait in lines for days just to get Johnny Cupcakes’ newest design.

This is a story of intense brand loyalty and outright love between customer and company – mutually felt and expressed. But how does a t-shirt company empower that level of deep customer connection? What are they doing that other fashion and retail brands are missing?

To answer these questions and more, Steven Kellam, SVP of Marketing & Alliances at 360insights and host of the ChannelEdge Podcast, spoke with Johnny Earle about the mistakes made and successes achieved during the wild ride that is Johnny Cupcakes. And, the timing of the podcast couldn’t be more relevant – going live on Giving Tuesday. As the holiday shopping season begins and consumers start to think about how and where to spend their money, the podcast will be a welcomed exchange about the power of giving back and taking a stand for the good of each other.

You Get What You Give: Charitable Giving Fuels Customer Loyalty & Affinity

In the age of social consciousness, today’s consumers want more meaning from their purchases and interactions with brands. That’s why implementing a corporate social responsibility strategy is creating real impact with consumers. According to a recent report, the large majority (84%) of consumers say it is important that a company supports charitable causes, and it affects 73% of Americans’ purchase decisions. And half (50%) of all Americans say they would switch to a company that supports a cause that is relevant to them.

Johnny Cupcakes has made “giving back” part of its brand promise from the get-go. They donate time to organizations in need, as well as sponsor art foundations, sports teams, booster clubs and camps in local communities. The company also supports local charities like Wellspring, Boston Children’s Hospital and the Saint Rock Haiti Foundation, along with international organizations like the Red Cross and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. That’s just the efforts the general public know about. Most of what Johnny Cupcakes does is purposely under the radar, but very much appreciated by their customers and the communities where they live, work and play.

Johnny Earle and his team understands that engaging in social responsibility, including corporate giving, should be a part of every organization’s CX strategy. The company has even gone as far as changing operations to fulfill the social needs of their marketplace. As Earle states, “It makes the journey have meaning outside of business – ultimately tying people and brands together.”

Taking a Stand and Doing the Right Thing: Johnny Cupcakes Customers Love Them For It

Taking social consciousness marketing to an entirely different level, Earle has answered the call to respond to social justice head on. In the wake of the killing of George Floyd and related and ongoing issues of racial injustice, Johnny Cupcakes listened to its customers and the passion they felt about the issue, and immediately took a stand – for them. From designing relevant t-shirts to being an outspoken advocate, Johnny Cupcakes has risen to the moment and their customers appreciate them even more for it.

Johnny Cupcakes is one of many brands that has chosen to take a stand on social issues, including racism and racial injustice. There is definitely a new understanding of social movements and racial inequity, and as people continue to evolve their behavior and commit to transformative allyship, brands are taking a stand to show their support.

Speaking up and taking a stand in the name of consumers has now become a cornerstone of a holistic compassion and purpose-driven marketing plan – helping drive brand loyalty and sales. According to a recent survey, 66% of consumers believe brands should take a stand on social issues, because they can help create real change, and 63% said that companies have the platform necessary to reach a larger audience. And a whopping nine in 10 customers are more likely to give highly transparent brands second chances after negative experiences.

Earle made it clear during the podcast recording that their customers have become even more connected and passionate about their brand because they saw, “decent human beings speaking up for what’s right.” That holds a tremendous amount of weight with today’s socially conscious consumers.

Creating a deeper connection by giving back together

Giving Tuesday is a reminder to all of us, consumers and brands alike, that social responsibility and doing something good is, and should be, a regular practice. Much like Johnny Cupcakes, 360insights has also made corporate social responsibility efforts an essential part of our mission and everyday operation. In fact, our latest product innovation, the Charitable Giving Solution, creates a new avenue to engage customers through compassion marketing. The new feature, available to all 360insights clients free of charge, provides consumers a way to give back while allowing brands to connect with their customers on a deeper and more meaningful level. The Charitable Giving Solutions is integrated into 360insights’ award winning Channel Success Platform and enables customers to donate either all or part of their consumer rebate payment to a charitable cause of their choice and receive an official tax receipt.

We all have it in us to do something better than ourselves and our business. Whether it’s donating to non-profits or speaking up against injustice, consumers expect and respect brands (and people) who are “decent humans.” Consumers will continue to positively respond to brands that are brave enough to do the right thing.   

About the Author

Steven Kellam Senior Vice President, Marketing and Alliances Steven is a respected leader in channel incentives and marketing with a comprehensive end-to-end understanding of what it takes for brands to succeed selling through complex sales channels. He has over twenty years of executive management experience combining leadership, vision and execution applied to sales, marketing, business development and operations. At 360insights, Steven drives growth through alliance building, thought leadership marketing and collaboration with the sales team. Steven is a strong strategic leader with a passion for growth and operations excellence. Prior to joining 360insights Steven served as President of CCI (now E2Open’s incentive business). At CCI, Steven led efforts to form alliances across the channel software market, grew its MDF and co-op advertising business, and expanded its solutions offering across its product suite to include rebates, sales incentives and APIs to support strategic partnerships. Steven studied Economics and Marketing at Virginia Commonwealth University and Hampden-Sydney College, respectively. Steven lives in San Francisco and is a competitive athlete, participating in triathlons and open water swims including the Escape from Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge and the Kona Ironman in Hawaii.

Profile Photo of Steven Kellam