Branded Tattoos for Word of Mouth Marketing

Credit: Flickr Eric Schmuttenmaer

Businesses and brands are always looking for new ways to reach more consumers with their advertising. Some brands are taking word-of-mouth marketing to the next level by paying consumers to tattoo themselves to help get the word out about their brand.

Reebok and HBO are among the first to execute this new promotion technique. Reebok set up a mobile tattoo studio at the most recent SXSW event earlier this year. They did not limit the creativity of those participating but they did require them to sign a consent form saying Reebok could videotape their session and use it to promote their Free Ride campaign. Reebok paid for 45 tattoos during the event in Austin, TX.

HBO, on the other hand, used “skinvertising” to promote the Season two premiere of “Game Of Thrones”. Fans were given the option to choose between five tattoo designs paid for by HBO. Out of hundreds of fans, only 50 were let inside of the tattoo shop.

As the trend begins to gain momentum, websites and companies are popping up that serve to connect people with advertisers looking to use skinvertising to promote their brand.

So what’s the appeal behind paying consumers for tattoos?

Well, from a brand awareness and advocacy perspective, there are quite a few. Besides having a human advertisement walking around, tattoos are inherent conversation starters. The social impact of one campaign also has the ability to last for the entire lifetime of the tattoo recipients.

For the consumers who willingly volunteer for these free tattoos, the campaign could be viewed as a reward for their loyalty. This provides the brand a win-win situation: they get a satisfied customer (or fan) and simultaneously gain a lifetime promotion for their brand.

These campaigns are also newsworthy and provide an ample PR push by their sheer level of creativity. Of course, paying for consumers to have tattoos isn’t for everyone. Shock value may increase publicity and word of mouth for your brand, but it also comes with the potential cost of tarnishing your brand’s image.

But let’s take it a step further.

Modern marketing relies on both eye-catching campaigns and simultaneous integration of a brand with the lives of its target audience. This desire for real-time “lifestyle marketing” may be temporarily satiated by a surprising skinvertising campaign, but the effect loses its luster over time, undermining the long-term strategic impact.

And don’t forget about the inevitable social media impact. Social media is a key component of real-time marketing and continues to grow as an integral part of both brand promotion and consumer self-expression. Networks like Twitter and Facebook allows consumers to like, share and interact with brands, removing the need for permanent displays of brand loyalty. Many consumers choose these less enduring routes to advocate for their favorite brands. On the flip side, a brand that finds itself operating within a fan culture where tattoos represent significant personal connection may have found their marketing niche.

As the volume of social media chatter increases, trends like skinvertising tend to spike in popularity (ahem, “go viral”) and then become obsolete in relatively short order. But that doesn’t mean you can’t inspire extreme word-of-mouth for your company. Getting involved in the community in a significant way, providing free products or services to loyal customers, establishing a powerful online presence or demonstrating exceptional customer service all have the ability to provide fuel for great word-of-mouth social reach.

What creative ways are you generating word-of-mouth marketing for your brand?