COM0011 – Blog 5 – Tattoos as Personal Branding

If you look anywhere on social media, or better yet, have gone outdoors in the area you live within the last twenty years, you may have noticed the increasing popularity of tattoo culture.

It may seem like people are in a huge hurry to permanently alter their appearance in the name of art, but I’m starting to wonder if in this age of personal branding, it might be the ultimate display of branding strategy.

Once reserved for ex-cons who had some jailhouse tats while they were in the big house, now they are visible on the various body parts of so many people, regardless of socio-economic class or age. Traditionally, tattoos held deep cultural meaning and were often a rite of passage or a symbol of rank. These days, they can mean a lot of things, but are commonly accessible in most areas in tattoo shops that specialize in the design and safe application of body modifications.

Part of the allure, aside from the stunningly intricate artwork and color palette emblazoned on your body, is that fact that they were long-held as counter-culture and unseemly. Like most trends, the oppression of a group has created an interest in one of the attributes common to that group, and the expression of the art form has spilled into popular culture.

From afar, tattoos can easily tell you a few things about someone without ever having to communicate with them directly. These things could include their penchant for a certain style of music, cultural affiliations, affection for their loved ones, and so on. This is not unlike personal branding in that it establishes the image a person projects out to the world to differentiate themselves from their competitors and to form alliances based on common interests.

The biggest difference between body art and digital branding as I see it, is that your body art goes everywhere with you and speaks for itself, while your digital branding lives on the internet and requires a measure of engagement to be accessed and appreciated. Perhaps the two elements together can marry the perfect branding: one that’s live and in person, and one that represents all your online and professional activities. A strong personal esthetic has done wonders for well-known personal brands like Lauren Conrad or David Gandy, for example. Social media is filled with people who gained notoriety from their remarkable body art, inciting the idea that anyone can set themselves apart form the crowd with a beautiful tattoo.