#TBT: The Future of Live Entertainment Looks Kinda Like a Cupcake Being Fired Out of a Cannon

Happy #TBT. To celebrate, we’re sharing an oldie-but-goodie post from Jim.

The Future of Live Entertainment Looks Kinda Like A Cupcake Being Fired Out of a Cannon

This is perhaps the longest post title I’ve ever written. It’s totally worth it. I’m talking about Johnny Cupcakes, who is NOT in the live entertainment business. Except he is.

Let me explain. Johnny Cupcakes is the “stage” name of the proprietor of a small chain of T-shirt shops that look like bakeries.

Just let that sink in. They look like bakeries.

As I have said in the past, You Are Your Own Marketing. A T-shirt shop made to look like a bakery IS its own marketing. Johnny’s designs are unusual and distinctive, but it’s the design of the store, the brand and the experience, and the meaning of being one of his customers that makes sure that word spreads.

And do I have to tell those of you in show business (most of you) that the showmanship of something like this has a major impact?

But wait … there’s more, and this is where it gets interesting from a live entertainment point of view. Johnny Cupcakes also does live events in the sense that when he releases new designs, he throws a little party (and actually gives away some real cupcakes). These little events can manage to gather quite a crowd (see photo to the right).

Johnny also tours his stores, bringing cupcakes and occasionally a cupcake cannon. For some reason, people like to sit in front of the cupcake cannon and have a cupcake fired at them at high speed … safely, of course. What would your patrons let you fire at them at high speed from a cannon? (I bet no one’s ever asked you that question before.)

I was also intrigued to see that Johnny hosts a monthly movie night in Boston as yet another way to get together in person with his customers and fans. Here’s what he says: “To make the movie nights more than just sitting there and watching a film, I also have lots of bonuses and activities before they start playing. We do things like raffles, give-aways, contests, and more. We also play lots of funny commercials before the movies get going. The movie nights are a great way for me to hang out with all of the people that like my brand and for people to see what makes me tick.”

And he says one more thing, too: “The theater nearly sells out every time, so it’s definitely a memorable, exciting, and fun experience. In order to not leave out all of my friends and customers on the Left Coast, I’m starting up a movie night in Los Angeles soon.”

What can we learn from Johnny Cupcakes?

There are several things Johnny brings together so well that I think every live entertainment venue should spend some time thinking about them.

First, brand. Marketers throw the term “brand” around a lot when what they really mean is visual identity (like logos and printed materials and website designs) or something even more vague. What we’re talking about here is creating a set of feelings and associations that really make people want to be part of what Johnny Cupcakes is doing.

Second, customer orientation. It’s obvious that this is Johnny’s vision, but it’s for the customers. For the customers. For the customers. His vision, but done for the customers. Keep repeating that like a meditation mantra. I certainly do.

Third, be distinctive. Seth Godin would certainly call Johnny a “purple cow” if he hasn’t already. If Johnny didn’t do the things he does to stand out, he’d be just another artist selling some shirts on Threadless. But instead, he fires cupcakes out of a cannon at people’s faces and puts T-shirts in bakery racks.

Fourth, food. I’ve mentioned this before. If you don’t get the importance of creativity and food in today’s consumer marketplace, look into it. There’s more innovation happening in food among people under 30 than there is in music. I’m not kidding. Thirty years ago, every 20-year-old wanted to be a rock star. Now, they want to be celebrity chefs.

Fifth, soul. There’s a lot of depth in this business. You can tell by just listening to Johnny. This stuff is important to him, and it comes through to customers.

Got a comment or question? Join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook.

Sign Up for Emails