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Branding Hysteria: Johnny Cupcakes Founder Coming to Little Rock

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An entrepreneur known for his marketing savvy and cupcake-and-crossbones logo is coming to Little Rock to share his story.

Johnny Earle, the founder of Johnny Cupcakes apparel and stores, started 16 businesses before he turned 16. From selling T-shirts out of the trunk of his car, he has grown Johnny Cupcakes into a retail empire with devoted fans who have his company logo tattooed on themselves and camp out for new products and store openings.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock College of Business and the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center will host two “Johnny Cupcakes: A Blueprint for Brand Loyalty & Global Domination” events featuring Earle on Thursday, Feb. 28.

A midday on-campus session geared toward students will be followed by an evening presentation downtown at the Ron Robinson Theater that is open to the public. The first event is at 12:30 p.m. in the Reynolds Business Center atrium, while the evening talk begins at 6 p.m.

Both events are free of charge, though pre-registration is required for the night event. To register, visit asbtdc.org/johnny-cupcakes.

Since being named the country’s #1 Young Entrepreneur by Bloomberg Businessweek and a Top Innovator in Retail by The Boston Globe, Earle has become an in-demand speaker on brand loyalty, marketing, entrepreneurship and innovation, appearing at leading companies and universities including Apple and Harvard.

He embraces experiential branding and encourages other entrepreneurs to focus on creating memorable, fun experiences for customers.

When he launched Johnny Cupcakes, he decided the best way to stand out in a crowded product category was to offer such a unique brand experience that his customers would loyally line up around the block, time and time again, just to be able to sport his logo on their clothing. From the display cases to the frosting-scented air to the packaging, his T-shirt “bakery” fools customers looking for real cupcakes and delights devoted fans.

Dr. Jane Wayland, UA Little Rock’s Stephen Harrow Smith Dean of Business and a former marketing professor, thinks Earle’s creative approach to brand building will resonate with students, budding entrepreneurs, and seasoned company leaders alike.

“He realizes he is in a very competitive environment and creates his brand through the customer experience and excitement with very little traditional marketing,” she said. “His logo is opposite of what you would expect. Cupcakes and crossbones! It gets your attention.”

During his talks, Earle will share his ingredients for success, including the power of details, the value of collaboration, the art of surprise and delight and the importance of rolling with the punches while learning to adapt.

“His story is powerful and relatable as he talks about building his brand through trial and error,” said Wayland. “And he’s fun, inspiring, and engaging. We are excited to partner with ASBTDC to provide this opportunity for our campus and our community.”

Before and after both events, Johnny Cupcakes merchandise will be available for purchase at an on-site pop-up shop. Full concessions will be on sale in the evening.

For more information, contact the dean’s office at 501-569-3356 or cobdean@ualr.edu.

The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration through a partnership with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock College of Business and other institutions of higher education. All programs are extended to the public on a non-discriminatory basis. Language assistance services are available for limited English proficient individuals. Reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance. Contact Pamela Reed at (501) 683-7700.

READ MORE: Hall of Fame: Four Arkansans to be Inducted into Arkansas Business Hall of Fame 

Image courtesy of University of Arkansas at Little Rock College of Business

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