The Holy Shit Factor: Branding Your Shop

The Holy Shit Factor - Marshall Atkinson

What separates mediocre brands from incredibly fantastic brands? According to riCardo Crespo, one of the speakers at the recent ThreadX conference it is called the “Holy Shit Factor”.

Pardon the language, but if you want we can say it in French as that might sound nicer. “Facteur de merde sacré.” Sometimes shocking phrases have more impact.

When riCardo said that in his talk I actually heard my brain go, DING!

He kicked off the day as the first speaker, but for many, riCardo Crespo was so dynamic we were still talking about him hours later.

So what is the Holy Shit Factor?

Exceptional brands have this in spades. As a consumer, you know this in your gut.

They matter.

Every time they do something, people say “Holy Shit that’s awesome.” Or, if you prefer, “Merde sacrée c’est génial.”

Holy Shit Factor Examples


Game-changing ideas come from these companies on a regular basis.

Patagonia with their eco/political stance. Tesla isn’t just a car company, they are an energy storage and delivery company. Disney makes the grade with how they use tech to ramp up and define the user experience in the parks. Harley-Davidson doesn’t sell motorcycles, they sell the tribe of freedom.

These brands have the Holy Shit Factor because they deliver. Constantly. Nobody else is at their level in their category.

Here’s where their authenticity matters. You can’t fake it. It is in the DNA of the company.

It is what resonates with their customers, to the point of branding themselves with the corporate logo as a tattoo.

Now, that’s loyalty.

Holy Shit Factor at Home


Yeah, I already know what you are thinking. “I’m just a tiny speck of uninteresting fluff compared to those guys.”

They have oceans of money and the top talent fuel injecting ideas into their corporate veins on a daily basis. My business doesn’t matter to anyone.

But you are wrong.

Here’s why.

You are in 100% control of your story. It’s your journey. Unique to you. Your impact on your customer’s lives matters too.

There is zero chance of you out-Disneying Disney. You aren’t going to make a better car than Tesla. Highly doubtful anyone (but you) would get your shop logo tattooed on their body like Harley.

But in your business marketplace here’s your truth.

You just have to be better than your competition.

Seems more reasonable, doesn’t it? Outperforming Patagonia isn’t likely in your cards anytime soon. But those knuckleheads across town?

What lame stuff are they doing? Poke holes in that. In fact, don’t just poke holes in it…squash it like a Godzilla wrecking Toyko.

That’s right. The Holy Shit Factor: The Home Version.

Get Off Your Butt


After you are finished reading this article, take out a pad of paper and jot down the twelve best things about your company. Whatever comes to mind. It shouldn’t be that hard. If you can only think of six or eight, that’s ok.

Now, ask your customers to do the same thing. What are their ideas about your shop? What do they consider to be the best things about you?

Are they in alignment with what’s on your list?

If not, what’s going on with that?

The Holy Shit Factor for your shop can’t be about your decoration methods. It’s going to be bigger.

It’s about how other’s see your company. What are you doing? How are you telling your story in an authentic way?

Patagonia isn’t the only high-end outdoor line.

But Patagonia tells the story of the importance of the outdoors. In fact, they will go to battle with the government over it. They will advertise to not buy their products if something can be repaired instead.

Patagonia’s Holy Shit Factor is that they care about the environment. Every time they do something to protect it, they win. That authenticity is what resonates with consumers.

Are you demonstrating a story in your marketplace? How well do you tell it?

Experiences Lead The Way


People usually don’t buy based on data. They buy on the experience. How something made them feel.

You aren’t only selling a cotton t-shirt that is decorated with a design. It’s a memory. If done right, that shirt is magic. It resonates with the consumer because they identify with it on a personal level.

The Holy Shit Factor for this industry is bottling that and selling it.

One of the speakers at ThreadX has done that. Johnny Cupcakes has sold over 30 million t-shirts by just being the authentic goofball he his.

The production value of his shirts isn’t much different than what’s coming down your dryer belt right now. In fact, your’s might be better.

He just spins his story better.

Johnny Cupcakes Holy Shit Factor is that he is operating at a branding level that is a thousand times what a normal shop puts out. If you aren’t familiar with this apparel line, it is based on limited edition t-shirts that have a personal pop culture based twist.

The logo is a cupcake with crossed bones underneath like a bakery’s version of a pirate flag Jolly Roger. He has that flag firmly planted with his core audience psyche.

Crazy stunts deliver his buzz. Limited edition t-shirt runs drive home the scarcity and increase value.

His branding is so granular that he keeps his business cards in a Ziploc bag with a stack of vanilla scented air-fresheners so they smell like cupcake icing. Details like that matter.


Johnny Cupcakes ThreadX T-shirt - Marshall Atkinson
Here’s the limited edition Johnny Cupcakes shirt that was given to everyone at ThreadX.

Learning From This

In your shop, what can you do that invokes that same touch? Can you get your customers raving about the work you do and become brand ambassadors?

What memories are you evoking when someone touches the work you produce? In your shop, are you ratcheting up the level of positive experiences along the way to the point that you are alone on the mountaintop with your competition?

This doesn’t happen by accident. You have to curate this experience for your customers. Like Johnny Cupcakes.

Below are some thoughts about this that were generated from the talking points from ThreadX. Use this to hone your discussion on your customer’s buying experience.

There isn’t a right or wrong answer, except if you don’t take action.

Ready? Take the quiz!

Holy Shit Factor Quiz


Rate each of these on a scale of 1-10 for your shop. For the brave, post your score in the comments section.

1 = you are horrible at it. 

10 = you could teach this at ThreadX19.

If you need help with these, see me after class.


Do you understand why you are different?

What is in your DNA that makes you unique? Rate your level of acuity when it comes to aligning this with your customer’s needs.


Are you delivering the smiles?

Compelling brands project strategic disruption of expectations, not an accommodation of them. Rate your shop on how you unexpectedly exceed expectations for your customers.


Who is defining your narrative?

What your shop projects are how your customers perceive you. Rate your shop on how well you work on building your brand and articulating your voice in the marketplace.


Your brand is your promise.

Do you deliver that promise? Rate your awesomeness.


Social Influencers

How people talk about your brand is a powerful thing. Rate how your customers are constantly sharing your work, reposting your content, or sending you new customers.


Branding is about telling stories.

Not about your shop, but why your customers should care. One example given at ThreadX was with the Ford Van with the foot motion liftgate. Ford demonstrated this with someone overloaded with groceries opening the door with their foot. Anybody can print a t-shirt or embroider a polo. Rate your shop on how well you tell stories that demonstrate why your customer should care about what you do.


Do you have a Vision Statement?

This should be an unachievable North Star that you are working towards every day. Rate your company on how effective you are in creating, defining, and working towards your vision for your company.


Map reading for next year.

Being uncomfortable about something often equates to not being prepared. This is about research and asking questions that matter. Rate your company on your degree of getting prepared for the future.


Fixing the plane while flying.

A good chunk of many of the speaker’s talks at ThreadX was spent on the value of learning from failure. Are you willing to do something different? Are you willing to change? Rate your company on how well you are willing to fail in order to grow.


Just say no.

Another salient point made at ThreadX was the willingness to not work on every project. “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Do you take every job that walks in the door? Are you focused on profit first? Or, in the words of Mark Coudray are you “busy being busy”? Rate your shop on your ability to say no.


Holy Shit You Have Some Work To Do


I know I do.

I took my own quiz and nailed a 77 for the experience level of my coaching work. Woohoo!

Just being honest here. I need to work on refining my future goals and creating a more human-based interaction with my clients. For the test, I didn’t give myself any 10’s.  Lots of 8’s and 9’s, and an occasional 7.  One 5.

That’s the beauty of going to high-caliber events like ThreadX, it puts things in perspective.

You are the captain of the ship for your company. Where you steer it is where you are going. If you let other forces impact your direction by not planning, you may wind up somewhere you don’t want to be.

Take some time and refine these ideas.

Talk with your team. Set some SMART goals around them. Make them actionable. Divide the work into small chunks with due dates on a calendar.

You can do this.

By the way, I’m working on it too. I’m not happy with that 77. My 5 was in how I’m telling stories.



“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell

“A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” – Henry Ford

“Ideas pull the trigger, but instinct loads the gun.” – Don Marquis



“Shop Basic Info Pack”


This eBook was written for shops just like yours. But it isn’t just a normal book.

It contains fully customizable templates for you to create a Business Plan, and a robust Employee Handbook.

There is a great section on Branding for your shop.

Plus for the production minded a customizable screen-print Production Log and Dashboard system that you can use to analyze your shop’s production. Get that data you need to interpret what’s going on on your production floor.

Click Here to purchase your downloadable copy today and start your journey to get to the next level for your shop.


Did you like this article?  Subscribe!


[mc4wp_form id=”16634″]




Leave your comment

Talk to Marshall and get his help.
Learn More
View All Ebooks

Related Posts