Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

Esquire Magazine estimated that 1 in 8 Americans was tattooed, 14% of which were Republicans. Now, I love a good tattoo…just not on me. I’m afraid of needles and, probably more accurately, the way my sagging flesh might someday distort the artwork.

Truth is, the tattoo is the ultimate advertising, a walking logo for girlfriends, mothers, roses, Chinese symbols, death chants, snakes, hearts and, of course, attitude and lifestyle. Eminem has several tattoos, including one on his wrist that says, “Slit here,” which is almost as telling as Charlie Sheen’s chest tattoo that says, “Back in 15 minutes,” both of which are much more understandable than Mike Tyson putting a picture of Mao Tse-tung on his right arm. I can only believe he thought it was a bottle of imported beer or maybe he asked for a nice picture of a “cow tongue” and it got lost somewhere in the translation.

In any case, there are rules when it comes to tattooing and branding…and we’d be wise to learn what we can from this long lost art. In fact, there are three simple rules:

1. Be careful what you put on your product, because it will be there forever…and you only have to look at Johnny Depp to believe me. After breaking up with his lifelong soul mate, he was forced to turn his “Winona Forever” into “Wino Forever.” Have the right dates, the right sentiment, the right spelling…and you won’t regret it.

2. Don’t over brand. Don’t over tattoo. Yes, you can have too many tattoos. Put too many words on your product and you’ll end up looking like one giant ink spot. Just ask Tommy Lee. Nobody reads his body anymore—there’s just too many. Don’t let this happen to you or your company. Cut down on words. Make your point quickly, then stop.

3. Don’t be afraid of a message that only a few will understand. Including a message that only your team or company will understand, adds a little mystique, making your product all the more desirable. Read Angelina Jolie’s stomach and you’ll know what I mean. It says, “Quod Me Nutrit Me Destruit,” which if you studied Latin, you would know means…“That Which Nourishes Me Also Destroys Me,” a reference I’m sure to her Billy Bob Thorton days.

Okay, that’s it. It was a long post, but I felt we needed to talk about it. I’m off to the American Society of Dermatologists Convention, who says that 50% of the millions of Americans who get a tattoo eventually want it removed. Until next time, remember what my mother* always said, “The world is divided into two kinds of people: those who have tattoos, and those who are afraid of people with tattoos.”

* Norwegian Mermaid on her right ankle