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Why a tattoo-worthy experience is different from a tattoo-worthy brand

360 Magazine 
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Why a tattoo-worthy experience is different from a tattoo-worthy brand

Vito wasn’t interested in buying a big house or a fancy car. He just wanted to have more time to spend with his family, to take vacations and to play sports. Unlike most of us, though, he actually put his money where his mouth is.

After diligently investing savings in his pension plan for 30 years, Vito managed to retire early, in 2018. To celebrate, he did something else most of us probably wouldn’t do: he tattooed the logo of his insurance company, Zurich, on his lower leg.

I saw this with my own eyes during a session of the recent Mad//Fest London 2021, where Zurich’s global head of customer and digital experience, Monika Schulze, showed Vito’s customer story video to kick off her presentation. You can find it in the company’s online library of similar clips.

The notion of being a “tattoo-worthy brand” has been part of the conversation among marketers for at least a decade. In 2010, for example, Heidi Cohen published a great post on her Actionable Marketing Guide blog that explored why someone might be willing and even eager to have an Apple, Harley Davidson, Nike or Gucci logo on their skin.

“Tattoos are a very personal, prominent and permanent way to display identity, membership and achievement,” she wrote. “From a marketing perspective, this is a sign that you have an iconic brand.”

Beyond the cachet and free publicity a tattoo offers, though, the question today is what such a strong affinity means from a customer experience perspective.

A Sense of Achievement That Lasts

Vito is obviously happy he invested with Zurich, but having cashed in his pension I think his tattoo is not so much about identifying with the insurance giant or feeling an ongoing sense of membership. For him, that ‘Z’ symbolizes an achievement, which is why he has the year he retired appearing right under it.

Later in the video, he goes on to explain that he doesn’t just sit around enjoying his newfound freedom. He talks up the value of savings and building a robust pension with younger people. While Zurich delivered in terms of offering him financial freedom, the experience he values now is the opportunity to lead others towards a similar experience.

Instead of thinking in terms of a tattoo-worthy brand, in other words, what is the tattoo-worthy experience a company can offer — even if a customer doesn’t go to the lengths of actually getting the tattoo?

A tattoo-worthy experience is not just one in which a customer is satisfied in the moment, or has all their expectations met.

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It’s an experience they want to keep coming back to as a way of reinforcing a smart decision they made.

It’s an experience that transcends becoming a brand advocate and is more about reinforcing the positive emotions around what they accomplished by talking about it.

Though a tattoo shows a company logo, it’s really just a visual cue for a story they tell about themselves. And the story is not necessarily about using the product or service — Vito wasn’t “using” insurance — but the epilogue of how their lives changed long afterwards.

Marketers will no doubt continue to try and develop an iconic brand.

CX leaders should want to help develop iconic customers, like Vito, instead.

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