Marketing with What Makes You Happy: Content with Johnny Cupcakes

Modern Marketing


Do more of what makes you happy. This is the mantra of entrepreneurial genius, Johnny Earle (more commonly known as Johnny Cupcakes), and it’s what drives his unique brand of t-shirts. To give you some context, Johnny owns and operates a food themed clothing line known as Johnny Cupcakes. Now you’re probably thinking that a food themed clothing brand is a tad odd, but that’s the humble secret to Johnny’s success.

“I wanted to poke fun at tough guys who wore skull and crossbones t-shirts. So I replaced the skull with a cupcake. Everyone had some sort of reaction to this logo. Guys thought is was funny, girls thought it was cute, and it caused curiosity and conversation amongst strangers. More than anything, it made people smile.”

— Johnny Cupcakes

This is how Johnny has created his powerhouse of a brand – by marketing with what makes him happy. May sound silly, but as a natural born prankster and child of the ‘80s, he is blessed with a sense of humor that resonates with all creatures great and small.

Have you ever considered basing a marketing campaign’s messaging around something that makes YOU smile? Why not just go with what you find the most amusing, and somehow tie it to whatever content, event, product, service, or dating site bio you happen to be marketing?

How to Do What Makes You Happy

I obviously have done this, or this post would probably end up being a bunch of whining. Fortunately, Marketo is fairly accepting of most of my quirky concepts. Anyway, I wanted to do a campaign tied to Halloween last month, so I managed a “spooky” customer referral campaign.

Here’s the imagery:

spooky marketo offer copy

And here’s the copy:

spooky marketo offer copy


That’s all – I just woke up and decided to do a campaign that was at least somewhat “horror” themed. It can be hard to get ideas that involve rotting flesh (un-nurtured leads) or serial killers (social spammers) over the approval line, but I did what I could. The point is, we’ve gotten 20 customer referrals out of this campaign, and it only ran for a month. And we all know there ain’t much out there more valuable than a sweet customer referral.

So, that was fun! But that was just me having fun with my own ideas. Want to know what’s way better? Playing Idea Ping-Pong! Yeah, that’s just what it sounds like: bouncing ideas back and forth between two (or more) people. I’m lucky enough to work with one of the best content marketers out there. No, not Ann Handley *heart flutter*, but Dayna Rothman. I’m proud to say that we are the masterminds behind the Dawn of Marketing Automation!

As we planned the launch of the Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation, Dayna and I decided that we were going to do a video. Next step, get in a room for a few hours and…

  1. Chit-chat
  2. Discuss what we’re promoting
  3. Chit-chat
  4. Throw random ideas around that kind of tie to whatever we’re promoting
  5. Chit-chat
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 an indefinite number of times
  7. Come across something that sparks a flame in both of us
  8. Get really excited and start heaving really good ideas at each other
  9. Decide on something super badass
  10. Run with it!

This step-by-step process can work with essentially any brainstorm about anything. (Just be sure to give me credit when you come up with a way to eat Panda Express and Chicago-style deep dish pizza every day without gaining any weight.)

Why Doing What Makes You Happy Will Also Make You Successful

Johnny Cupcakes does what makes him happy, and that’s why he’s so successful. People remember his playful messaging and quirky campaigns. Now I know you’re probably not out to sell t-shirts, but don’t underestimate the value of entertaining your audience by entertaining yourself.

And don’t forget, doing what makes you happy reinforces that human touch! Check out this handwritten message on a Johnny Cupcakes shipment I received:

signature from johnny cupcakes

Disclaimer: I know there are skeptics out on the interweb that are saying, “You don’t know that’s actually him. It’s probably just some random employee tasked with scrawling that message on every box.” Though I do work for a marketing automation company where I use tokens in emails and landing pages like it’s going out of style, I do believe this to be Johnny’s signature. And to have JC’s signature on one of my many orders! THAT’S customer care!

Overall, the point is to realize that your audience is composed of people with the same need to smile and be captivated as you. So go ahead, have some fun! Obviously don’t lose sight of that end goal — converting leads and filling pipeline — but why not line the path with smiles (or cupcakes)?

Have you ever based a marketing campaign on what makes you happy? Do you think it’s wise, or misguided? Share your thoughts in the comments below.