Show Your Loyalty: Get a Tattoo!

There is no sign of dedication and devotion as abiding as a tattoo. For centuries, folks have used ink to symbolize their commitment to lovers and mothers alike with rough-edged hearts emblazoned with monosyllabic names, or to indicate their allegiance to a cause or group, like sailors decked with matching anchors or pigs and roosters.
Today, many tattoos retain those connotations of devotedness or fandom—including to retailers.
We’ve heard of big brands garnering a nod from tattoo enthusiasts (see this post from Fast Company: https://www.instagram.com/p/BX0WE8MjkVc/), but even the little guys are earning their ink. Take, for example, Next Adventure. The Portland-based outdoors store has a legion of diehard fans at its back, and recently that fanbase resulted in some Next Adventure body art.
Next Adventure’s Customer Proudly Showing His Ink!

At its root, the decision to permanently paint your body with a logo or icon isn’t just a fashion decision, it’s a representation of community—a soulful nod to your allegiance, and an inalterable subscription to your tribe.

It’s also a marker of an unquestionably successful business with an attentive finger on the pulse of its community. As retailers adapt to an ever-changing world, they’re turning more and more often to community-building as a business-savvy plan for growth.
If tattoos are the result of that community-building, what’s the impetus? We small business owners, especially in the specialty retail sector, know it well. It’s clubs—for riding and hiking and running—and information sessions and classes, it’s fundraisers and social media contests and gatherings and events.
For the bigs guys, the ones with the powers and profits to innovate, it’s becoming much more as they unveil new store concepts based on building community. Apple revealed a new store structure last year in San Francisco that completely reconceptualizes the very idea of retail. In addition to its aesthetic modernities (see: 42-foot sliding glass doors and living trees—indoors), the space encapsulates the brand’s commitment to community with a backyard “forum” that’s open 24 hours a day and offers free wi-fi, plus weekly performances from local artists. In the store’s “boardroom,” local small businesses can get advice from app developers, and on the second floor a 6K video screen will feature creative sessions with local experts. “The over-arching vision of the future of Apple retail […] is what do we want Apple’s role in the community to be,” Apple’s senior VP of retail Angela Ahrendts said at the store’s press opening. “The store becomes one with the community.”
Another big brand committed to community in its new structures? Starbucks. Even the megachain renowned for its quick service is slowing down to offer genuine connection with its customers via their new cafe-within-a-coffee-shop Reserve Bars.

For once, it’s fair to say that these corporate giants are taking a cue from us—the little guys. For years, we’ve been cultivating community as a form of business growth. It’s what the generations of shopkeepers did before us, and it’s what we’ve always done—we’ve just moved those porch-side general store chats to the internet or the counter. Now big companies like Apple and Starbucks are recognizing that connecting with the customers on a genuine level is better marketing than anything else—even those tattoos.

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