Nobody wants my brand’s tattoo…Yet

“Nobody gets a Suzuki tattoo.”

I’ve probably heard Seth Godin say that about a hundred times now. He says it not because it’s notable that people don’t want a commercial brand placed permanently on their bodies.

He says it because they do.

Only it’s not Suzuki tattoos they’re getting. It’s Harley Davidson.

Why one and not the other? They’re both commercial brands. They both represent businesses out to make money. None of the thousands of people who do have Harley Davidson Tattoos got paid to have them (to the best of my knowledge).

So why would people willingly mark themselves with a commercial brand? And why one and not another?

In my conference presentations about branding I’ve often used slides with the image metaphor of a branding iron.

Obvious metaphor is obvious.

But until I heard Godin’s remark about tattoos again on a recent Tim Ferriss podcast, it hadn’t struck me how apt the tattoo/branding iron metaphors are for what we marketers hope to do for our brands.

If we only think of our brands as something we display, like the tail of a proud male peacock, then we’re not doing true branding. Putting your logo on your website and business cards, on billboards and banner ads, is not branding.

Branding doesn’t happen until people start to absorb the brand into their own identity, until they love it so much they might even wear it on their body.

I’d rather push a Chevy than drive a Ford

“I’m a Chevy guy.” “I’m a Ford man, all the way.” In my dad’s day, that was brand identification. Those were brands guys would get into fist fights over at bars. Those weren’t men who when it came time to trade in the old model went to Consumer Reports to find out what else they should consider. They would buy another Ford or Chevy, not because either of those was necessarily the best possible choice, but because they were a Ford or a Chevy guy.

And as a brand marketer, that should be my goal as well. To do such a good job of not only creating the value and benefits of whatever my company provides, but to make the whole experience around my brand so damn great that people actually want to be identified with it.

Flipping Your Lid at Me

At search marketing conferences I’m always intrigued with how many people have this guy on their laptop lids. Who is he? He’s Roger Mozbot, the official mascot of Moz, a leading provider of digital marketing software.

People don’t have Roger stickers on their laptops just because he’s adorable (which is undeniable), but because they want to be identified with Moz. Why? Because Moz has worked hard over the years to build a brand people love and actually want to be identified with.

What would make people want to adorn their work machines with a trademark of a company they don’t work for? It certainly starts with Moz’s quality products, but goes way beyond that. It grows from things like the way Mozzers live their famous TAGFEE values. It’s fed by their kickass, over-the-top MozCon conference. It’s nurtured by their stable of excellent PBRs (Personal Brand Representatives), such as Rand Fishkin and Dr. Pete Meyers. And it’s pumped up by their fanatical support for their community of expert guest writers on the Moz blog.

All of that and more that Moz does ends up creating something more than a company. It creates a brand that I want people to see on my laptop lid. Because when they see Roger Mozbot, and they see my face peeking over the top of that laptop, somehow it brings all the great stuff people associate with Moz into association with me.

Hell, give me three drinks at my next Las Vegas conference and I might even come home with a Roger tattoo.

But in the meantime (and in a much more sober vein), my job happens to be Senior Director of Marketing for Stone Temple Consulting. Right now that name might not mean a lot to you. But my mission is to make sure that if you have any interest at all in digital marketing, some day it will.

Some day, if I do my job right, you might even willing put this on your laptop lid:

Or dare say it, walk out of a Vegas tattoo parlor with it on your arm.

If that day comes, get in touch and I’ll gladly supply the artwork ;-)