Is there a stronger or more lasting connection between a brand and their customers than a tattoo? The world’s strongest brands (Nike, Harley-Davidson, Apple, Coca-Cola) have legions of loyal followers who connect with them on such a profound level–it results in a tattoo. These tattooed, walking, talking 5-star reviews have such a strong brand connection, they feel compelled to solidify their devotion through permanent ink. Which may not be all that different than a partner’s name tattooed on your body? But I have a sneaky suspicion, there are far less tattoo removals regarding brand tattoos than the name of a previous spouse. 

“You can decide to be tattoo-worthy.” – Seth Godin

So, how do you become a tattoo-worthy brand? 

Create an exciting community that embodies a way of life

I’m a third generation motorcycle rider on both sides of my family. At 4 years old, my dad put me on the tank of his motorcycle to ride around Chicago. Motorcycle culture is in my blood, and is my community. I’m far more comfortable drinking beer with motorcycle clubs than sports fans. And no one embodies, or has furthered this sense of comradery and community more than Harley-Davidson. Harley-Davidson represents far more than a brand, it’s a community to join, and a way of going about life. 

There are an estimated 200,000 Harley-Davidson tattoos around the world. How many Suzuki tattoos have you seen?

Harley-Davidson fosters this tight-knit community through local and international HOG chapters, rallies, online platforms, and events. What’s the ticket for entry into this community? A Harley-Davidson motorcycle. It’s difficult to explain how deep this bond goes, but when you meet another Harley-Davidson owner, it feels like meeting a new friend.

“Wherever you come from, whatever you believe, it doesn’t really matter once you ride a Harley-Davidson.”
Jochen Zeitz, CEO at Harley-Davidson

For those of us who love the open road and the distinct rumble of a Harley engine, Harley-Davidson is more like church than a brand. They exemplify a way of life like few other brands have understood, let alone achieved. 

Foster strong and consistent emotional connections with your customers

Tattooable brands have one very important thing in common–a strong emotional connection through shared emotions, feelings, and experiences with their audience. Coca-Cola rarely talks about Coca-Cola. Rather they make a very conscious effort to tap into the emotions of happiness, nostalgia, and togetherness. For Nike, their “Just Do It” slogan has become a global mantra, embodying the brand’s ethos of determination, perseverance, and pushing your limits. 

Consumers buy Apple products because they resonate with creativity and innovation. From Apple’s “1984” commercial, to the moment you unbox a brand-new iPhone or MacBook, you’re greeted with an experience that feels very exciting and special. Apple’s ease of use, attention to detail, and industry leading capabilities, create a sense of wonder and excitement for what’s to come. This emotional connection fosters a deep loyalty that transcends the realm of technology, and seeps into personal expression. To the point where it’s weird if you consider yourself a “creative,” and don’t use Apple products. 

All of these brands have successfully tapped into the deep-seated emotions and aspirations their customers seek out–which builds a forever bond. Fans who choose to tattoo brands’ logos onto their bodies, do so to express their alignment with the emotional resonance these brands awaken within them.

Tell relatable stories that position your customer as a hero

What sets Nike apart from nearly every other brand, is their storytelling wizardry that evokes strong emotions, and the sense of being seen. Nike’s advertisements often feature stories of athletes who have overcome adversity, re-defied expectations, and achieved greatness. By showcasing these narratives, Nike is communicating that everyone can be a hero of their own story. Which taps into the same Hero’s Journey framework that nearly every award-winning movie and book is built upon. Nikes narratives make people feel seen and understood, reinforcing the notion that Nike is a brand that understands and supports them on their journey of becoming a hero.

Apples secret sauce is inspiring your imagination through story. They carefully craft narratives that make us dream and think bigger. Apple doesn’t just want to sell you gadgets; they want to help further your dreams. Customers are encouraged to believe in their own potential and see Apple products as a catalyst for their personal success. By consistently highlighting the user experience, and providing free product workshops in their stores, Apple further taps into our fundamental desire for self-improvement and self-expression. For more on how to position your customer as the hero, I highly recommend Donald Miller’s book, “Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen.

Time to get some ink

Ultimately, brands that become tattoo-worthy leave an indelible mark not only on the global marketplace, but also on the bodies of their most devoted fans. These brands forge deep emotional connections, create vibrant communities that become a way of life, and support customers on their own hero’s journey. So, the next time you hear the roar of a Harley-Davidson, sip a Coca-Cola, use an Apple device, or lace up your Nikes, remember the profound impact these brands have made by transcending the world of commerce to become an inseparable part of their customers’ identity.

Cover image source:  Art of Success