Fast food brands leverage tattoos for experiential marketing

As young consumers embrace indulgent and bad-for-you foods, fast foods brands are adding fuel to the fire by leveraging a long-held signifier of “bad”—but in a cool way—to market their various promotions: tattoos. While the results and the methods of these different activations are mixed, it’s certainly getting under consumers’ skin. 


While we lauded Domino’s’ culture of innovation in our Innovation Halo macrotrend, a recent experimental marketing push by Domino’s in Russia proved to be uncharacteristically short-sighted. The pizza purveyor advertised a promotion where customers who got a tattoo of the brand’s logo would receive 100 free pizzas a year for up to 100 years. When hundreds of eager customers began inundating Domino’s with their branded body art—and the realization of what this would cost the franchise over time sunk in—the brand cut the promotion from one month to one week and issued a press release warning people to cease getting inked, effective immediately. 


In a twist on the concept of free sandwiches for life, roast beef king Arby’s offered die-hard fans the chance to get free, permanent, and on-brand tattoos from skin artist Miguel “Uzi” Montgomery for one day only back in September—participants didn’t get free Arby’s food for doing so, just the memento of such. Montgomery’s custom designs include images of Arby’s staples such as their beef and cheddar sandwiches and curly fries recontextualized within more traditional tattoo imagery. While other companies have allowed curious consumers to experiment with temporary tattoos, Arby’s is taking no half measures when it comes to allowing consumers to express their dedication to the fast food chain.


KFC regularly thinks outside the box when it comes to their marketing but a recent promotion encouraged their consumers to do so as well. After a KFC franchise in Australia announced that a “Chicken Cheque” promotion was up for grabs to anyone who proved they most deserved the prize, one teenaged fan showed the extent of her dedication by getting a KFC logo tattoo. The brand, which was looking for wacky or weird stories, awarded the 19-year-old the coveted Chicken Cheque, which entitled her to a year of free KFC; specifically, $100 worth of KFC food a week for 52 total weeks.