What drives a person to get a brand tattoo?
Think about what the term “branding” really means and you’ll have a better appreciation for the importance of the psychology behind brand tattoos.
The tattoo is a powerful symbolic image. Symbolic images activate patterns buried in our unconscious. These unconscious images are what Carl Jung referred to as archetypes.
Archetypes, in Jung’s words, “are simply the forms which the instincts assume.”1
Archetypes serve as the foundation for the way the psyche interacts with the world. We associate specific symbolic images with specific feelings, values, and beliefs. We are not generally aware of these associations; they are below our conscious awareness.
Brand Tattoos Fulfill Social Needs
Symbols are tied to our instincts, which feed our human needs. We all have biological needs as well as social needs. Brand tattoo serve our social needs.
How? The mark or image of a brand represents a specific set of ideals, aspirations, beliefs, values, and worldviews. We all have a need for love and belonging. Brand tattoos are badges that symbolize membership into a social group. They makes us feel like we belong.
Brand tattoos help customers bond with others in the same social group who share special interests and common values. Brand tattoos send a message that they belong to a unique, personally meaningful community. You only “get the message” if you’re part of that group.
Brand Tattoos Represent Meaningful Associations
Victor Frankl attributed the success of his bestseller Man’s Search for Meaning to the title of the book. To him, millions of people bought the book because of their own lack of meaning in their lives. And, the need to fill the meaning deficit has only grown through the present day.
Some people have discovered their meaning in the values they project onto brands like Apple, Harley-Davidson, Nintendo, Nike, and Coca-Cola.
The brand tattoo is permanent badge with special meaning. It creates a powerful recall cue for the memories, experiences, emotions, and other positive associations they have with the brand. A single image, as represented by the tattoo, can encapsulate a complex matrix of meaning.
Brand Tattoos Symbolize Ideals
Beyond the social needs of humans, brand tattoos are reminders of the customer’s ideal life.
Brands can become associated with specific ideals, as Apple has become inextricably linked to creativity, beauty, and self-expression. Customers see the brand’s mark as both a reminder of and identification with these ideals, allowing them to draw strength from the image.
For customers to identify with your brand, your brand has to constantly and consistently be associated with a particular archetype. Then, if that image resonates strong enough in your customer’s psyche, they just might want to brand their skin with your image.
Marrying Customers to Your Business
Customers instinctively look for meaning. They naturally look for something to rally around. They crave an emotional payoff from their interaction with the brands they love. Brand tattoos create a permanent physical connection between the customer and the brand.
In a world where most businesses focus exclusively on growth and sales, the opportunity for businesses to serve customers on a deeper level remains open and waiting.
- Carl Jung, “The Structure of the Psyche,” The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, 1960. ↩