When Skin Becomes an Advertising Opportunity

Some consumers will obsessively hunt for coupons in search of discounts. But others have taken a less conventional approach: brand tattoos.

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Nikkole Paulun, who appeared on an episode of MTV's reality show "16 & Pregnant," recently went on social media to show off her new ink: the logo of Electrik Beach, a chain of tanning salons in Paulun's home state of Michigan. "Free tattoo got me free tanning for life," the 20-year-old tweeted alongside a photo of her new body art.

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But Paulun isn't the only person who has ever displayed their love for a product or brand on his or her body. Today, KFC released its latest ad, a video of a man whose loyalty to the chain's Double Down sandwich is so great that he agreed to be filmed getting a Double Down tattoo. The unnamed man visits a tattoo parlor in Lexington, Kentucky, to get the ink done.

Almost immediately, food blog Grub Street compared the man in the KFC commercial to a man in Norway whose tattoo of his McDonald's receipt went viral earlier this year.

David Griner, the social editor for AdWeek, says that the real value of these tattoos isn't the placement on a human billboard. "For brands, the value is in social media and in the news coverage it generates," he says. However, he cautions brands against assuming that anybody who signs up for a logo tattoo is a diehard fan. "I think it's a lot like reality TV. Whenever you see a contest to name your baby after a website or get a tattoo of a brand on you, there are always people who are excited because they see it as a chance to get attention for themselves."

And brand loyalty isn't only valued in consumers. One New York City real estate firm offered incentives to its own employees in exchange for having the company's logo tattooed somewhere on their bodies. The nearly 40 employees who agreed to get tattoos of Rapid Realty's logo were rewarded with a 15 percent pay raise. The company also pays for the cost of getting the tattoo, usually about $300.

One Rapid Realty worker who got inked told Time magazine that "if I have [the tattoo] on my arm, it’ll force me to keep going and working hard" and added that he plans to stay at the company and not get another job.

Although tattoos are supposed to be forever, some people regret their ink down the road. One of those people is Eric Hartsburg, a professional wrestler who got Mitt Romney's campaign logo tattooed on his face. After Romney lost the presidential election, Hartsburg says he began to feel weird walking around with the logo on his face, and he also changed his mind about Romney's politics.

"I had a little change of heart," Hartsburg told the Los Angeles Times. "I could deal with being a part of a losing campaign, but to still stand behind Gov. Romney with the positions he's taken post-election with the blame game instead. To be such a sore loser about it, to me I can't walk around representing that." He is now getting the tattoo removed, an expensive process that requires multiple visits.

Perhaps next time an election rolls around, Hartsburg should consider investing in a bumper sticker instead.