As I was getting my first tattoo, I nervously chatted up Spike (my tattoo artist) to distract me from the pain. I asked him what the most requested tattoo was. Harley Davidson was his response. Wow. The most requested tattoo — people pay to have Spike permanently inject ink into their flesh — a corporate logo. Imagine your customers being so enamored with your business that they would tattoo your logo to their arm or some other body part?
Last week I drove through Sturgis, South Dakota during the 66th Annual Black Hills Motorcycle Rally. It was not planned. I was, in the words of “D-Fens” in the movie Falling Down — “Just trying to get home.” I knew Harley was a cult. But to really appreciate the devotion, you gotta go to Sturgis. According to their website in 2005 there were 525,250 participants. And for those of you who are reading this and thinking Crime City, USA — think again. The number one crime committed was “illegal parking.”
I saw my first biker somewhere in Wisconsin, and pretty much followed the pack right on through to Washington state. Everywhere I stopped there were at least 25 HOGs in the parking lot. I took tons of pictures and heard some great stories. Harley Davidson is over 100 years old. The company has had its struggles and nearly went out of business — until a group of devoted Harley owners bought the struggling company back from AMF in 1984. The Harley logo has been around since 1910. If your customers are tattooing your logo to their bodies, you can’t change it. Do you have that problem?
Last year I published my first book. Tattoos: The Ultimate Proof of a Successful Brand. In it I tell stories of companies that I believe are tattoo-worthy. Some of these “companies” are religions, entire states, or just one person. Everyone has a brand. To become tattoo-worthy you have to target an audience, not a territory. You need to listen to that target — be loyal to them. And the most important part of becoming tattoo-worthy…identify the competition for your target, and make them irrelevant. That is what Harley has done. They have no competition. Are you tattoo-worthy?