Don’t Mistake a Logo for a Brand

Nike’s logo has been the same since 1971, and its slogan “Just Do It” was added in 1988. The logo connects to its consumers, reminding them that they can power through physical and mental challenges.  

The reality is that your company likely won’t become a brand titan like Nike. However, you can use its example to build your brand and create that same kind of connection.  

We’ve worked hard to make Club Tattoo a memorable brand. Here are the lessons and wisdom that we picked up along the way.  

1. Your brand is more than just a logo. It’s what your customer connects to.  

A brand is an identity shaped by the set of attributes your customers associate with your business. These can range from the visual image of your logo, to products and services, to how you provide customer service. It’s something that others recognize and assign value to you and associate with your business. Most people can tell you what colors Coca-Cola uses in its logo and advertisements and who offers 5 Dollar Footlongs (Subway).  

What do people associate with your brand? To answer that question, you need to ask yourself a few questions.  

– What does my company do or produce?  

– What do my customers want and how do they experience my company?  

– What is my company’s niche and where does it fit in the industry and market?  

When you try to serve everyone, you end up serving no one. Answering these questions will help you focus on what your business does best, improve upon that, and overcome the temptation of trying to be all things to all customers. 

2. Highlight what makes your brand memorable. 

Tattoo and piercing parlors aren’t known for being customer experience-focused. One of the things that makes Club Tattoo so different is our customer service team. Every client that walks in is greeted when she or he crosses the threshold. We create an environment that’s clean, upscale, and inviting to customers seeking a higher-quality tattoo or piercing. This all makes us stand out in the industry.  

How do you make a brand experience that your customers will never forget? First, define how you can improve your processes or systems. Even a tiny change to your service or product delivery can help your company stand out. Then deliver on those changes to a high standard so that your customers can trust that they’ll experience something that only your brand provides.  

Your brand is more valuable than the product or service you sell. You must find out what makes your brand different and highlight that. Is it your product? Your location? The customer experience? Whatever it is, find it and capitalize on it to create lifelong customers that will seek out your brand.  

3. Make the most of what sets you apart. 

Identify and focus on the one thing you do better than your competitors. Make it your calling card for people who are seeking your unique selling point.  

Let’s look at coffee. Most consumers instantly think of the Starbucks logo. Starbucks is the most significant global coffee brand and a force to consider for people interested in starting a neighborhood coffee shop. It may seem like a losing proposition, but there are niche opportunities or submarkets within every market. Stumptown, based out of Portland, Oregon, has created a specific market within the coffee industry, focusing on an experience for those who consider themselves discerning coffee connoisseurs. Stumptown’s customers display their Stumptown cups with pride as they go about their day.  

Different is good, and bigger isn’t always better. As you consider what sets you apart, ask yourself these questions:  

– What is our product or service niche? 

– What does our business do best, and how can that fit into a niche market in our industry? 

From there, you can create a brand experience to delight your target audience.  

4. Discover and define your target audience.  

Your target audience is the specific group of consumers that you serve with your product. It will also be the people that you’re targeting with your marketing and advertising strategies. Before you start selling a product or service, you need to know and understand who they are — who they’re not.  

Three core elements connect the target audience: your product or service, their demographics, and your company’s mission and vision. If you already have customers, start collecting data on them. Capture vital statistics, location, and what kind of things they spend money on. Start gathering this data in a format that can be easily analyzed and categorized so you can access it and use it to better tailor your brand and marketing to them. 

When you go through this focused exercise of finding out who your clients are, you may be surprised by what you find. When we did this in our original Tempe studio, we discovered that we were wrong about our audience. We thought our client base was mostly college students, with a 50/50 ratio of men and women. Actually, we served more than 60 percent women and mostly people ages 24-32. With that information, we could identify what items we actually needed to carry and stop wasting money on guessing.  

5. Know what you’re telling your clients with your business’s marketing.  

Now that you have a target audience, what message are you sending with your marketing?  

You must ensure the message is evident to those who know little or nothing about your business or brand. Do they get what your ads and logos are trying to convey? Can they identify what your visual signature means? You can’t guess or make assumptions about these details. If you don’t have solid data on them, you must do some market research. Ask people who are unfamiliar with you and your brand these questions. The answers may reveal insights that surprise you.  

While it can take dedication and effort, refining your marketing to effectively engage your target audience is key to having a long-term business. If your marketing strategy remains consistent and your message is powerful, clients, and even potential clients, will think of your brand first when they need your product or service. 

6. Appeal to customer values.  

Values are highly variable when it comes to customer experience. They can represent the cost of customers’ time, monetary considerations, or ideals — like patriotism. Think of it in terms of actual value customers receive = benefits of a product or service – (minus) cost. You want to create a value proposition that benefits you and the customer.  

Never assume what your customer values. It may not always be what you think. You may believe that money is always a high priority, but it often ranks last when determining value. Things such as wait time, product availability, ease of purchase, and customer services are all things to consider when seeking a value proposition. Take every opportunity you can to capture customer data to make sure you’re providing the value they seek. 

Using specifically targeted surveys for customers according to whatever you offer is an excellent way to do this. With simple, easy-to-read questions, you elicit honest answers that help you adjust your business. The goal is to understand your unique value proposition and make changes that better communicate it. When customers see the connection between your values and what you offer them, they’ll be more likely to choose you and become life-long customers. This work allows you to find and promote your niche within your industry to set yourself apart from the competition. 

Creating a brand that resonates with your target audience and provides customers an experience they can’t get anywhere else isn’t easy to accomplish. However, it’s what can give you a competitive edge in the marketplace.  

Sean and Thora Dowdell

Sean Dowdell is known as the Tattooed Millionaire, which is also the title of his first book (2017). In addition to his role as founder and CEO of Club Tattoo, he is a drummer with Grey Daze. He’s a frequent speaker to a variety of audiences and has been featured in Entrepreneur, GQ, Billboard, and on CNBC, A&E and more.

Thora Dowdell was formerly in marketing and sales before becoming a business partner with Sean, initially in the music recording industry and later in Club Tattoo. Thora is passionate about empowering women business owners through her story.

Together, the husband-wife team have authored the new book, Brand Renegades: Our Fearless Path from Startup to Global Brand (Entrepreneur Press, May 25, 2021). Learn more at

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