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I am one who believes that one of the greatest dangers of advertising is not that of misleading people, but that of boring them to death.

Leo Burnett

I was trapped on a low cost flight by run by a UK airline recently. If you love nothing more than reading one of those flimsy ‘lifestyle’ magazines whilst flicking through the latest click and collect catalogue, listening to regional radio advertising spots over a backing track of minor hits from the 80’s –  then Let me tell you, THIS the the airline for you!

The entire interior of the aircraft is covered in advertising.  The luggage bins shout at you listing all the destinations you can travel to all whilst being constantly browbeaten into parting with your hard earned cash by the barrage of announcements. Even the seat back screams ‘ buy one of our cheap package holidays NOW!’ I was reaching for the advertising covered sick bag before we’d even left the ground.

There is no escape.

What’s next? Dispense with business class and stick a nail bar up the front of the plane? Why not have a car boot in the luggage compartment? Every sickly upbeat Annoncement starts with ‘ladies and gentlemen boys and girls’ Jesus! it’s not a fucking panto! I’m on an aircraft! I’m a grown man and I don’t need to be reminded to use the cup holder if I buy a hot drink ‘just to be on the safe side’ by a voice actor who’s clearly be instructed to ‘keep it really local radio’. After all we wouldn’t want anyone to think their lives are in the hands of a professionally run airline or flight crew would we? No, treat us like we’re all off to butlins for and icecream, a sing song on the pier and a stick of rock. The announcements are every ten minutes for the entire flight. It’s clearly important to teach me how to tie my shoes and then sell me bluetooth Velcro safety trainers (page 27 of the in flight magazine) as a much better option. SOOOO TIME SAVING!! Coos the suitably regional accented voice over. The entire experience made me decide to never fly with this airline ever again even though they did loads of advertising and told me all about the stuff they have for sale.

So why didn’t their advertising work? Because it was bad, really, really fucking bad.

Relentless advertising made by a huge corporate money machine trying to present themselves as your best mates in the air in order to get as much of your holiday money out of your pockets before you even land! Thats What! But it got me thinking about advertising and whether or not tattooists should be re-examining what they’re saying and how there’re saying it, how many of us do bad advertising every day on social media and at every convention we work? The modern world has us convinced that to succeed as an entrepreneur you have to be ’24-7 in your face’ and ‘shameless’ when it comes to promotion and Tattooists have started chasing this idea. For the most part – their efforts come off pretty ‘chip shop’ and they utilise any cheesy method in an effort to ‘get ahead’ or ’stand out’ – you can even see female artists tattooing topless at conventions now!
We’ve turned an experience that should be akin to a walk around the Tate into a shopping trip to the local supermarket. We’re behaving like travelling Salesmen shilling suitcases full of crap or corporate propaganda whores prepared to get in bed with any product for a bit of cross promotion rather than professional artists who truly believe in what we do.
  • Cheesy banners covered in sponsor logos
  • Business cards and promo that plead ‘please like me’
  • Portfolios that shout ‘LOOK AT THIS’
We’re constantly screaming at the clients rather than quietly showing our work with some class and reserve. The average tattoo booth these days looks like it was designed by BARRY from the Cillit BANG! advert.

Could we do it better? Well, yeah.

In marketing we call this ‘tone of voice’. To effectively develop a brand through marketing, you must build your brand’s personality. An important part of brands personality is the tone of voice and in advertising that’s not just a magazine advert but every piece of written material your brand has. The tone of voice in marketing means not only what your advertisements say about your brand, but how they say it. Written tone of voice is simply the ‘personality’ of your brand as expressed through the written word and it’s just as desirable as a  consistent look and feel in your branding and a successful tone of voice will clearly communicate the values of your brand.
What I mean by that is you should speak in a tone of voice that will attract the clients you want and not try to sell yourself as something your not just to gain notoriety, followers, etc etc. Tattoo clients are – for the most part – looking for artists who both love and live the work. So if you’ve just jumped on the trend wagon in an effort to ride the latest tattoo wave you’re probably not going to look or sound anything like the artist who created the trend – because it just isn’t you. Because it’s a little distillation of everything we do – Take a look at your booth the next time you set up at a convention – If you don’t work shows take a look at your website and social media instead ask yourself what does all this say to a client?
  • I’m desperate for any kind of work
  • I’m a corporate whore shilling any old product along with mine just as long as I get free shit and I mostly tattoo models for free promotion because it looks good on social media.
  • I’m not really like this but I bought all these clothes and all this stuff to convince you that I am because this shit is the latest trend and I can make bags! Now pay me!
If your booth/brand/etc is communicating any of the above and it’s NOT you then you should consider changing it and examining the tone of voice that you use to communicate your message. The simplest thing is to write it how you say it. It may not be grammatically perfect but it will be authentic.
For us tattoo artists ‘brand’ is very personal because it usually represents US so it’s even more important that you get it right because if you get it wrong you’ll just spend most of your time feeling like a faker who’s turned up to a show in fancy dress.
Take Care