Why Is Tattoo Branding A Powerful Visual Marker?

Be it finding meaningful associations or entry into social groups, customers ink their bodies permanently with brand tattoos for several reasons. Marketers and business owners can leverage the power of tattoo branding to take their brands to the next level.

Tattoo branding is the new kid on the block that every business owner and marketer should get familiar with.

In this booming era of technology and the internet, it would pay you well to understand the latest developments in the fields of marketing and business management as a whole. While brands and businesses are moving toward embracing the digital world completely, it would make sense to keep our feet on the ground.

Business owners and marketers should find out about the latest development in the world outside the internet so that they can formulate branding and marketing strategies that could fit well in both the digital and real worlds.

Tattoo branding is one such term that entrepreneurs and marketers should get familiar with. What is tattoo branding? Simply put, it is a tattoo of a brand inked into the skin of a loyal customer forever. Be it Apple or Nike: customers etch the logos of their favorite brands into their skins. But why do they do it? What can marketers learn? Are tattoo branding and body branding the same things? Find these out and much more in this article. But first, let us look at some numbers.

Tattoo artist market size in the US.

Image Credit: IBISWorld

According to data published on IBISWorld, the current market size (2022) of tattoo artists in the US is $1.4 bn. As per the statistics, “The market size of the tattoo artist industry in the US has grown 8.4% per year on average between 2017 and 2022.”

According to another report by Expert Market Research (EMR), the global tattoo “market is expected to witness a further growth in the forecast year of 2021–2026, growing at a CAGR 9.60%.”

The data published by IBISWorld and EMR points toward the fact that the tattoo industry is destined towards greater things.. Brand owners and marketers can use this data to create strategies centered on this booming industry and expect to reap the benefits in the not too distant future.

What is branding?

Before we dive deep into tattoo branding, let us try and understand what branding is.

“Branding is endowing products and services with the power of a brand.” (Kotler & Keller)

In other words, branding is a series of actions taken by business owners and marketers to create a perception of the brand in the consumers’ minds. Branding brings meaning to an organization and products or services. Branding may also be seen as strategies employed by organizations to tell the consumers what they can expect from the brand and what they shouldn’t.

The objective behind branding is to attract potential buyers and turn them into loyal customers.

Related: Rebranding strategies: the ultimate guide.

What brand owners should know about tattoo branding?

Tattoos of famous brands.

Image Credit: Best Tattoo

While it is true that most brand owners and marketers have not yet deciphered the reasons behind customers getting a tattoo of their brands, there is a lot that they can learn from them.  Before we get into probing why customers ink their favorite brands into their skins, let us quickly analyze a thing or two about human behavior.

Human beings, consciously or subconsciously, are in search of meaning. This inherent human trait has been imbibed on us at a deeper level, which Philosophy and Psychology have been trying to uncover.

Customers are human beings and when they find a brand they resonate with, they try to associate with them at many different levels. They try connecting at a psychological and emotional level with brands they love. Now here comes the fun part: brand tattoos are the physical result of the emotional connection they create with brands.

When you, as a brand owner or a marketer, realize this significant aspect of human personality, you can easily take your brand to the next level. When you let your brand connect with your customers at multiple levels and create an environment for them to physically express themselves: you know you are headed for success. Loyal customers are the best brand ambassadors you can have. And when they get a permanent tattoo of your brand icon: it is the best marketing you can get!

Why people get brand tattoos

There are many reasons why people get brand tattoos; however, I will explore the top three reasons people love to ink their favorite brands into their skins forever.

Finding meaningful association

Brand tattoos are more than just cool-looking symbols: they represent a lot more. When a customer gets his favorite brand tattoos and finds others with similar markings, it becomes easier for them to bond. While some people like associating with people with similar interests in books or music, others do so by highlighting their values by getting a tattoo of their favorite brands.

A brand tattoo is special in the sense that it is a permanent marking that has an exceptional place in the customer’s life. It helps create a strong brand recall because of the positive experiences associated with the brand.

Entry into social groups

We express our values, inspirations, and instincts in various ways. A designer or a painter may create beautiful artwork; a musician may produce a masterpiece, and others may express it through various symbols. Many use brand tattoos to express their social needs. In fact, expressing social needs could be more satisfying than fulfilling biological needs!

You may ask a very pertinent question: How is expressing social needs more fulfilling than biological ones? A brand tattoo, for example, stands for a certain set of values and aspirations. When you get a tattoo of the brand that resonates with your values, there is a sense of belonging because it paves the way for your entry into social groups.

Brand tattoos represent ideals

Apart from social needs and entry into social groups, brand tattoos represent the ideal life of the customers.

Pick up any brand, and you will find that they are associated with specific sets of ideals. Nike stands for victory, power, speed, agility, and motion, whereas Apple represents innovation, sophistication, and creativity. Customers who get a tattoo of these brands tell the world of their ideal life.

If you want your customers to share your values and express them through various creative mediums, including tattoos, you must be consistent and persistent with your chosen archetype.

Here is a great video on tattoos.

The key takeaways for brand owners and marketers

As a marketer or a brand owner, you must aim to create conditions where your customers begin to associate your brand with multilayered experiences, emotions, and memories.  Once you understand that tattoos are not only attractive markings on the skin but a web of experiences, emotions, and memories, you will be able to connect with your customers at a deeper level.

Here are some ways to create a meaningful experience that can resonate with your customers.

Understand your customers

Understanding your customers is the first step in creating a meaningful experience for them. Tattoo branding is a great way to promote your brand, but you cannot force anyone to ink their bodies with your brand logo or symbols. Customers will only get a tattoo when they are completely aligned with the brand values and see them as theirs, which is why you must be consistent with your archetype. You can ask questions directly to your customers when they walk into your store. Say your manufacturers and sells beauty products, you can ask them the following set of questions:

  • What are the feelings you get upon entering our shop?
  • How do our products make you feel?
  • Why would you choose our products over the others?
  • What do you expect from our store and products?

Create a unique customer experience

Customers would only care for your brand when they have a unique customer experience. Tattoo branding is all about letting your customers speak about the unique experience they have had with your brand. As a brand owner or a marketer, you must always remember that people only get the tattoos of the things they love the most. You must strive to understand your customers and create an experience that resonates with them in multiple layers.

You can explore the following to create an ideal customer experience:

  • Think about the ways you can surprise your customers.
  • Let your customers know that you are different from your competitors.
  • Think about creating strategies consistently that are completely aligned with your brand values.

The brand framework

An effective brand framework is an extremely crucial tool because it allows you to create potent marketing strategies. A brand framework can be the starting point for marketers and business owners to create all brand communications. It can be something as simple as a tweet or something as complex as brand identity designs. The brand framework can also be used to predict if your marketing efforts will be a success with your customers.

A brand framework should:

  • Talk about what your customers hold important.
  • Help you align your brand with customers’ needs.
  • Enable you to create strategies that can turn a prospect into a loyal customer.

Following these three crucial steps will help bring your customers closer to your brand. Tattoos are personal, which is why connecting with customers at a personal and emotional level can be very fruitful.

Tattoo branding is comparatively a new concept, which marketers and brand owners can use to get up-close and personal with customers. While it is true that only a small percentage of the population get tattoos, and fewer still get brand tattoos, it can be a very satisfying experience for you if they choose to ink their skin with your brand icon.

Body branding vs tattoo branding

We have explored everything about tattoo branding and how they help create meaningful associations for the customers. However, body branding is a different ballgame. When a customer gets a tattoo of a brand, it is referred to as tattoo branding. But, when a symbol or a pattern is burned into the skin of a person it is known as body branding.

Body branding with science.

Image Credit: Conversation

According to Wikipedia, “Human branding or stigmatizing is the process by which a mark, usually a symbol or ornamental pattern, is burned into the skin of a living person, with the intention that the resulting scar makes it permanent.”

The practice of body branding began hundreds of years ago when human slaves were branded as personal properties. Criminals in the ancient world were often branded for their crimes.

Today, people generally go for body branding for the same reasons as tattoos. While body branding has been accepted in popular culture today, it does have a gruesome back story.

While both of them are permanent, the following are some differences between body branding and tattoo:

  • Tattoos can be removed using laser surgery: body branding is permanent.
  • The visual results are different.
  • Body branding is extremely painful.

Bonus: Is body branding legal?

There are no clear laws about body branding. However, experts are of the opinion that there could be a rise in legal cases against people who body brand their customers. The law could become more stringent where customers’ consent would not play a major role. In other words, even if a customer gives consent for branding, the person, shop, or the organization responsible for the branding would be held by the law.

The reason body branding is a legal gray area is because of the methods used for getting the body “art” done. The process involves hot or cold branding iron to create the permanent mark. The first case was reported to the police by doctors when a husband marked his wife’s backside with a “W” using a hot knife. The police held the husband responsible even though the wife had given consent. However, the judge dismissed the case with the remark that the husband only committed the act as “a piece of personal adornment.”

The bottom line

The real measure of success is not in the customers getting a tattoo of your brand but the way they remember it. While I have drawn your attention to tattoo branding in this article, my goal really is to reveal ways that can get your customers as close to your brand as possible.

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