Tattoos, Not Brands

An Entrepreneur's Guide To Smart Marketing and Business Building

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Pub Date 05 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 06 Dec 2022

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“…illuminates one of the most misunderstood aspects of launching a company and should allow countless entrepreneurs to sleep better at night. — Scott Stedman, serial entrepreneur and author of Mouse, a novel. (Greenleaf Book Group)

Before you start your business, before you spend a dime on marketing or hire another brand strategist, you need to consider something: You don’t have a brand. 

Everyone from aspiring entrepreneurs to seasoned business titans believes in the power of branding. But the truth is, most businesses, nonprofits, charities, and social movements aren’t brands. They are tattoos. 

Unlike market-driven brands, tattoos are mission-driven. And if you have a tattoo, approaching marketing from a brand mindset will prove–inevitably–unsuccessful. 

Drawing upon research, psychology, and decades of experience, Tattoos, Not Brands: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Smart Marketing and Business Building offers an innovative approach to marketing. It includes simple steps to prepare for success and identify the approach to marketing that will best work for you and your vision.

Each chapter concludes with a few simple questions or exercises to help you discover the right tattoo for your business.

In Tattoos, Not Brands, you’ll learn: 
  • The tried and true foundational basics of marketing and how to make them work for your unique business or endeavor 
  • Identify your tattoo type and how to achieve authenticity with your customers and clients
  • How to show off your tattoo and bring it to market–successfully

“A must-read for anyone who is looking to grow a business, organization, or movement. Full of smart practical guidance that reverberates universally—from luxury goods to social impact and everything in between.” — Avenue Magazine
“…illuminates one of the most misunderstood aspects of launching a company and should allow countless entrepreneurs to sleep better at night. — Scott Stedman, serial entrepreneur and author of...

Advance Praise

“If you feel like you are hitting a roadblock with your marketing, Clint White’s Tattoos Not Brands will help you overcome them. White will take you by the hand and walk you through a new take on classic marketing tactics. Updating the traditional concept of the marketing mix and the fours P’s, Product, Place, Price, and Promotion, this book will guide you through how to look at your brand from a new perspective. Case studies, examples, and exercises will lead you to fresh ideas. White pulls from decades of his own experience in updating and deploying new marketing strategies for iconic institutions. Learn from this marketing master, and as his classic tagline says, “Love it, Hate It, but don’t Miss It” Tattoos Not Brands is an unfading toolkit for the modern marketer.” — Patrick Dolan, former President and COO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) 

“The Tattoos Not Brands concept is intuitive and powerful. The book is approachable and reframes some foundational ideas about best practices marketing in a digestible way. The text flows easily with insights dropping left and right backed up by the author’s personal experiences on what actually works and doesn’t. Although my career has largely been supported by Brand, my responsibilities demand product marketing where, it turns out, I’m actually creating tattoos. This is a worthwhile read with lots to take away and apply directly to real-world situations.” — David Henstock, Head of Identity, Visa 

“Tattoos, Not Brands strikes me as the type of book that will resonate well across sectors. The mindset of a tattoo can be extremely liberating and helpful whether you are a business, non-profit, politician, influencer, or leading a movement. It’s easy to say ‘I need to be a brand in order to be successful’, but the hard and smart work, as the author asserts, is in understanding and gaining proficiency in fundamentals of marketing. This book elegantly walks through how to do it, step by step, to position you for success.” — Sonja Nesbit, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); current Managing Director, FTI Consulting

“In his new book, Tattoos, Not Brands, Clint White provides a step-by-step approach to identifying your target market, quantifying it, and then selling to it as a ‘Tattoo’ rather than competing against far wealthier and better-established ‘Brands.’

Smaller brands, especially new entries in a market, often struggle to articulate their benefits to multiple audiences. But a ‘tattoo’ understands that who they are is not half as important as who their user is, how they want to feel, and what problems they need solved. Consumers buy bananas that are Rainforest Alliance-certified because it feels better than buying ones that are not. They buy products and services they believe in and trust, because they like the way doing so makes them feel.

While acknowledging that to ignore the fundamentals is an enormous mistake, ‘Tattoos’ shows you how to hack the system to avoid waste and inefficiencies. The perfect book for the aspiring entrepreneur, or any small business.” — Robert Grede, best-selling author of Naked Marketing: The Bare Essentials

“Tattoos, Not Brands is an insightful and throughly enjoyable ride through the journey of creating great marketing experiences. Clint’s own experiences are tremendously invaluable in bringing to life concepts that are applicable across industries and pretty much all walks of life. Highly recommended for anyone trying to create and communicate world-class customer experiences, and dealing with all the challenges of modern marketing.” — Kabir Sethi, Head of Digital Wealth Management, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

“In Tattoos, Not Brands, Clint recounts his storied career from being Whitney Museum of American Art’s first marketing lead to becoming the first marketing agency owner named a Crain’s New York Business Top Entrepreneur. He shares wisdom that’s been valuable throughout my career at Forbes, Kickstarter, and working with dozens of New York City’s finest founders as Director of Marketing at Primary VC. His embrace of freedom, expression, and practicality make for nimble brand strategies that don't just speak to target audiences but rather engage with and build true communities.” — Katheryn Thayer, Director of Marketing at Primary VC

“If you feel like you are hitting a roadblock with your marketing, Clint White’s Tattoos Not Brands will help you overcome them. White will take you by the hand and walk you through a new take on...

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ISBN 9781954676176
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Featured Reviews

As an entrepreneur, I always knew marketing was important to growing a business, but I didn't realize that I had other options than "becoming a brand." This book is a quick, fun read that lays out the basics of how to position yourself in the market, figure out your audience, articulate why people should care and how to best tell your story. Full of real world examples featuring lets of interesting and diverse businesses and organizations (like art museums, The Rainforest Alliance, music,, Uber/Lyft, Dos Equis etc). The idea that you are a tattoo (a craft beer) instead of a brand (like Budweiser) is much more interesting and relevant to me, and gives flexibility as opposed to rigidity.

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Normally I go through marketing books ready to pick them apart for not having what I needed. It's a bad habit but I formed it through reading a number of marketing how-tos.

Sure, they normally have great narrative, fun stories, and good advice, but not all of them can keep my attention.

So here we go.

Color photos. Hmmm. Yeah, they're here and look.good.

Space to write your ideas. Check.

Guided questions? Yep.

Bullet points. Authors always forget the quick-reference bullet points. I thought for sure I had it on that one. My thumbs were poised. Then I got to the last.chapter of next steps. Dang it.

Okay, fine, I concede this is a really good marketing book! I also super liked picking what kind of tattoo my business would be and reading about the suggested marketing tips.

It was fun and useful. If you have a business, the next thing to ask is if you have a brand. Use the questions in the book-you'll probably be surprised.

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Love a book filled with amazing anecdotes from the author’s 30 years in marketing. My favorite was his behind-the-scenes look at the campaign for the 1997 Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art: “I wrote ’Love it. Hate it. Don’t miss it’… We looked at each other, and we knew we had the campaign.”

The author writes about the complicated elements of marketing in very simple language. Great section on how Apple used UX to make the iPhone, how Starbucks used it to make the same drinks you can get all over the world.

The best example of a tattoo in the book is Trader Joe’s, which is all about authenticity. The author writes: “You can’t get every item a household needs there, and they don’t pretend you can. Instead, Trader Joe’s messaging says they understand people have different dimensions, they appreciate this diversity, and they embrace the challenge of meeting such disparate needs.”

A quick, smart and fun read.

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I got an ARC of the book and found it engaging. The are several good new tools that I found and some I knew already. I think this book is good for startups or SMB companies like the author suggests. Overall it is a very interesting approach to call small brands tattoos and big brands real brands. It makes sense due to budgets they have to support marketing efforts. There is a good chapter in UX and some interesting pages in sales too.

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Clint White has brought marketing into 2022 while keeping traditional marketing processes' blueprints. When Clint White explained why you have to look at your business as a "tattoo" because hard truth, you are not a brand, I was left speechless and had to dive into the entire book.

The facts and gems shared in Tattoos Not Brands will definitely help any entrepreneur grow their company in a way that will not let them fall short of themselves but do justice and set realistic goals in marketing and growth to propel your business to new and better standing. The website and resources created for Tattoos Not Brands, it's a guidebook so you are also able to fill in some prompts at the end of the chapters to work as your read-along. These are also huge bonuses and helpful that will help your business and keep you focused and on track.

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Tattoos not brands

First marketing book I've read that doesn't try and make the small business compete or copy the big brands. Shows how to use their strengths to make their own path in their niche.

There's a step by step strategy to help you identify your market and how best to target and serve them.

The book is jam packed with information and many working examples of how approaching things as a tattoo,not a brand helped these businesses grow.

I've read many of these types of books that give general info, but they often fall short. The author has a wealth of knowledge and experience that can back up his advice. Highly recommend.

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