Analysis & Opinion

Human branding gone too far?

December 9, 2010 Katie Tammaro

As clutter continues to grow and advertisers search for more personal ways to interact with consumers, the ultimate individual branding experience is the Holy Grail. As Rob Dyrdek’s recent stunt or tattoo (awaiting proper confirmation) shows, we may have finally found the grail, and it’s not what we expected.

Rob Dyrdek, having launched from skateboarder to reality TV star on MTV, is “tattooing” the Monster Energy Drink logo on his back. Tweeting the entire experience, he wrote, “About to start this journey of permanent brand support.” We’re not talking tramp stamp style here folks, we’re talking shoulder blade to shoulder blade and down to the waist. Rob has always been credited with being business savvy, from his role in DC Shoes, Inc. to the cult success of two shows on MTV, but tattooing a sponsor’s logo on your back takes it to a whole new level.

Upon first sight most will think this is far beyond what is acceptable. But is it really? Logo value is one of the key elements of branding. You wouldn’t think twice about the Polo symbol on your coworker’s shirt, the Dolce & Gabbana pattern on your wife’s bag or the swoosh on your Nike gym sneakers. People find value in brand logos. It somehow defines them or creates a representation of who they want to be. Let’s not get into the discussion of how vain that may be, even hipsters are defined by what they don’t wear. It’s a reality, some may say sad, but a reality nonetheless.

So where should the wearing of a logo end? Is the material it’s sewn with or printed on the barrier? Or is the human skin the last stop? Is the tattooing of your brand on the consumer’s flesh the epitome of brand loyalty or the dawn of insanity and advertising taboo? Is it worth investing in celebrities, like Dyrdek, to perform stunts like these? We pay them to tweet, we pay them to use our products, we pay them to endorse our products. Why not pay them to wear our products . . . permanently?

In no way am I condoning this. Personally, I hope it’s a giant hoax. But I think it raises a valid question. At what point does advertising become too personal? Until now, the advancement of technology has brought that question to the forefront. Human flesh is a different discussion to be had. Is it too far or is it the unfortunate consequence of our relentless pursuit of personal interaction?