Using tattoos as a marketing medium…

Ryan, the owner, with his favourite meal!
We live in a time of mass media marketing that has seen billboards springing up on every corner and buildings under construction wrapped in enormous advertising drapes.
Is it any wonder then that the last bastion of free space, our own bodies, are beginning to fall prey to the clutches of the advertising companies and the brands that they represent?
And how do you (or they) determine the going rate for this prime mobile advertising service?
Recently a woman in the USA accepted $10000 (around R70000) to place a tattoo on her forehead to promote a particular product. And this was not a henna tattoo that would eventually fade after a few weeks. No, this was there for the life of the woman who allowed her “head space” to be commandeered by this particular brand.
So would you do it for that amount of money?
I posed that question to tattoo artist Ryan “Busta” Bolton recently
and his response did not surprise me
“Personally”, he told me, “ I have nothing against doing a tattoo for someone who is being paid to have their skin inked with their favourite product or service.
HOWEVER…I would closely question the prospective client before going ahead with the tattoo”.
He has done club logos (usually Man U), national flags and even local rugby clubs, but he has never tattooed a brand onto someone’s forehead!
He has done a Coca Cola tattoo on the leg of a friend who needed to fill a space and thought that that particular logo would work (he did not approach the soft drink company for any sort of payment)
 But back to my original question that was “Would I do it”? The answer for me is a definite “NO” UNLESS there are large sums of money about to be deposited into my bank account.
With that rider and if the money was sufficient what sort of brands would I be likely to allow onto my skin…and where would I place them?
I already have several tattoos, but none are product related…although the one design was adapted from a banking advert.
Would I allow a supermarket chain to appear above my eyebrows? I don’t think so. But, by the same token I would allow an energy drink to use the back of my legs especially if their brand gave my bank account wings!
If I lived in a country where there was a culture of facial tattooing then I might consider incorporating a logo into such a design…as long as it did not offend the culture of that particular people.
But what if I was to have a particular brand, that was acceptable here in South Africa, applied to my forehead only to find that it was unacceptable in a foreign country!
Try explaining your particular forehead message to a non-English speaking customs official (think Midnight Express)
Should the tattoo, or product be age appropriate? If I got a tattoo aimed at the 16-24 market, what happens years later when I am seeing walking the halls of my retirement village? Will I be labeled as some sort of deviant? Or could be changed to be more suitable?
Several years ago there was an advert for a particular German vehicle where the lead character had the name of his current girlfriend tattooed on his arm. Every time a relationship ended he went back to the tattoo parlour, had the offending named canceled out and the new name put underneath. Eventually seeing that his relationships never seemed to last he had the badge of the vehicle he was driving applied as it was the only constant in his life.
But that brings me back to the earlier question “How to you choose a brand and where would you put it?”
From a product placement perspective the company would want the most exposure they could get at the same time maintaining the dignity of the person who will be carrying their brand.
There was a local company that was wrapping vehicles in order to promote certain brands given what type of car and for what purpose it was usually used.
Could there be casting agencies that would spring up locally to promote their clients with a particular brand?
The bottom line, no pun intended, is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if you want a puppy with a toilet roll on your face forever then who am I to judge.

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