The recent hubbub about the short lived Ironman Access program (see here for Jeff's writeup) got me thinking. No, not about if this was an example of greed gone wild or why WTC quickly killed this program but the idea of a commercial brand or corporate symbol meaning something to the public or members of the public beyond what it should mean. This is more than "liking" a brand or following a brand but I started thinking about passion for what a brand supposingly means (beyond profit for the corporate entity) and what would be an indication of true passion for a brand. Then I had an idea. Besides Ironman, which brands warrant enough passion for people to get the corporate logo or symbol tattooed somewhere on their body?
Full disclosure - I do not have any tattoos and I'm not really planning on getting one.
My first thought, after the M-dot was Harley Davidson. I think this example might be even more understood and accepted by society than WTC's M-Dot.
My second thought was the Olympics with the Olympic Rings. Are the Olympics a for profit enterprise? Ask Peter Uebberoth whose led and managed the first privately financed Olympic Games to a surplus of nearly $250 million in the 1984 games.
Other corporate brands that could fall into this category included Nike, Playboy, Disney and even Apple (see William H. Macy in Wild Hogs). I'm sure there are more and we all could add to this list.
But is it right? This is beyond loyalty. In some cases it is beyond believing the hype. As always, what may be OK to some may be over the top to others. Of course, it also made me wonder if they included a discount on a tattoo with the $1000 Ironman Access program would that have been enough to have to accepted by more "customers." I believe this story isn't over but I am interested in seeing where it goes.
PS: There are more interesting articles on this all around the blogosphere. I referenced Jeff's as one of the first I saw on this along with BDDs.
Your right, it isnt over, a revised version will be coming soon, I bet.
I think the tattoo isnt really about a brand, its about the experience that allowed you to get that tattoo. When I see a M Dot tattoo, I dont think WTC, I think "Wow, they completed an Ironman"
When I was typing my post yesterday I was trying to rack my brain about what other logos are like the M-dot and the only two I could thing of was Harley and Disney -- good call on the Playboy logo and Nike. Those are good comparisons.
I feel sort of like you do on this too -- it is very interesting to watch. All most like a train wreck - we just can't turn away!
Clearly more and more people are doing triathlons now than ever before. We see that same phenomena across the endurance-race spectrum. The thing that strikes about Ironman is that it has this reputation that even I, someone who has never done a triathlon, know of, that they are really well run races and that they are for hard-core athletes who have trained really hard to get there. That sort of entrance requirement makes it sort of like going to an Ivy League school where even being a legacy won't help anyone gain admittance....it has THAT sort of cache.
So, Ironman has a problem...how to maintain that sort of elite status and, from a marketing and business growth perspective, how to grow without becoming the race equivalent of Calvin Klein jeans being available at Costco...I mean, if anyone can get in, is it elite any longer? Probably not. On the other hand, Calvin Klein probably makes a helluva lot of money from it's Costco sales.
Nice post... I can't think of any other brands that engender that kind of loyalty...Apple is the one I thought of. (guilty BTW)
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