The art of human tattooing has existed since before the stone ages. But this spring, Lander University senior and Greenwood native Hannah Leister took on a scientific project to find out why people bother with tattoos – considering that they are painstaking to get and even more so to remove.
What Leister discovered was that the time, the patience, and even the cost to get a tattoo is worth it to most of the people who get this type of skin art because of one overpowering factor: a sense of having something that they want to last forever.
“I wanted to examine tattoos through the lens of consumer behavior theory,” said Leister, a business administration major. “And my hypothesis was that consumers have an emotional connection with their tattoo, and that tattoos serve as symbols that mean something intensely personal to them.”
To test her hypothesis, Leister set up an online survey that ran for 12 days, March 18-29.
She had 444 people respond to questions that covered when they had gotten a tattoo, whether they had more than one, and especially their motivation for wanting to purchase one.
Her findings included:
• 70.4 percent of respondents with at least one tattoo said it carried an emotional connection.
• 84.94 percent with at least one tattoo said it had symbolic meaning for them.
• 71.49 percent of all respondents said they have tried to guess or infer the meaning of someone else's tattoo.
• 91.86 percent with at least one tattoo said they would purchase additional tattoos.
“The data supported my hypothesis, so I was very happy but not surprised,” Leister said. “And by better understanding the motivation behind people’s decisions to get tattoos, I think businesses can enhance their marketing of not only tattoos but also of similarly personal products.”
Leister presented her findings April 13 in a presentation during the 2019 National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR 2019) at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga.
As part of her Honors Capstone Seminar, she had begun the project at the University of Winchester, England, in fall 2017, and opened it up for Lander students to participate in during the spring 2019 semester.
“Hannah’s project was exciting to me for a lot of reasons,” said Dr. Lillian Craton, director of Lander’s Honors College. “The biggest reason is that she did it because she was invested in her topic and wanted to learn more about marketing research, and not for a course grade.”
Leister added that going forward, she hopes the experience she gained from the project will help her in the marketing world after Lander.
“It sparked my interest in further researching tattoo consumption as well as the consumption of other personal products,” she said. “I enjoyed analyzing the survey's aggregated data and being able to view the respondents' experiences and opinions.”