Marketing When Nobody Is Looking

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There’s a famous saying that goes something like, "integrity is doing the right thing when nobody is looking." It’s like that old chestnut, "to thine own self, be true." In the past few days I’ve seen countless examples in places like hotels, at retail, in restaurants, etc… where individuals are performing their roles fine, then turn around and do something less-than-impressive (thinking that no one is looking).

Here’s one example: "I was walking through a major retail chain in Time’s Square today (the Manhattan one). The brand also happens to have a mascot. They have someone dress up like the mascot. Standing with the mascot is another retail employee encouraging the shoppers to, "come on up and get your picture taken." While I was waiting, I noticed that every time there was no one in front of them, the two guys were cracking jokes, talking loudly (even swearing) and acting unprofessional.

Listen, I know it ain’t easy to dress in a costume for your eight-hour shift, and the temptation to futz around is huge. The problem is, the brand is now totally ruined for me. Done. The magic and everything. Here’s why: I would have been impressed – big time – had these two guys maintained their professionalism (lived the brand) when nobody was looking. Instinctively, we all say to ourselves, "imagine what that guy probably does when no one is looking." We almost expect them to futz around. And that’s the point. We are looking, watching and analyzing (and I know I’m not the only one), so the let-down is bigger.

We need to train the keepers of our brand to really live it (even if you’re forcing them to wear a costume). If you look at the power of Social Media and everything that’s happening in our Web 2.0 world, it’s going well beyond the always on culture into the always watching and (more importantly), always recording culture. What would have happened had I caught these two guys using the video camera on my mobile phone?

Imagine what HQ would do if that little act was captured and posted on YouTube?

I’m not that cruel, and the intent of this Blog post is not to get two pimply-faced kids making minimum wage fired. The point is that someone is always watching (and probably recording), but that’s not the main reason to do the right thing. The reason to do the right thing is because employees are the biggest brand ambassadors you have. A culture of pride, respect and compassion goes a longer way when everybody is citizen journalist.

Marketing is also about doing the right thing when nobody is looking.

Now more than ever.


  1. There are two ways to do this. You appear to be describing the bottom down get them to behave well all the time approach.
    Far better is the self motivated bottom up route. To achieve this you can either recruit people for their qualities rather than skills or run a business that makes so much sense that employees naturally care about the brand.

  2. in other words, “to the brand that you work for, be true” …
    I say:… hooray for the joker. hooray for the humans.
    if you’ve got a mascot, you’ve *already* destroyed your brand for me.

  3. I love the idea: “integrity is doing the right thing when nobody is looking.” and I understand the disillusionment that comes when the mask is dropped and the actors show their real faces, or true colours. I think one of the big problems is that here in North America employes never really belong to the company, the way they (used to) do in Japan. They are so much better at creating a team environment, and you simply don’t ever want to let your team down. The dark side of course is the sense that you are always being watched, and no allowance is made for disaffected views. It’s a topic worthy of much more discussion – I hope you take it up again Mitch.

  4. I think you make a very valid point Mitch. However, in this day and age of cost-cutting and solidifying the bottom-line, I can’t really say that I’m surprised.
    When you treat people like ‘minimum-wage’ they act like it. Regardless of what your brand is.
    I’ve seen other organizations treat and value their employees and the impact on the brand is terrific. This doesn’t always mean paying top dollar (although it helps) as there are such things as intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Pity, how few organizations get it in this age of citizen journalism.
    It could be worse though. The mascot could have been picking his nose or something. πŸ˜‰

  5. I have to agree with Sulemaan. Where is the motivation for a teenage casual employee who is only making a crappy wage and certainly doesn’t care about the brand s/he’s representing?
    It goes both ways.
    On the other hand, I saw a bank manager the other day come out of a bank and light up a cigarette. Still wearing his name badge flashing a big yellow logo. Here in Australia, I think my generation sees this in a similar way to drinking, and you certainly wouldn’t drink on the job. A small dint in their brand, even if only from my point of view.

  6. Everybody Is Your Big Brother
    Mitch Joel writes the Six Pixels of Separation blog and podcast up in Montreal. Earlier this week in a post called Marketing When Nobody is Looking, he writes about a recent experience in New York City. He was walking through

  7. I do not drop a great deal of responses, however i did some searching and wound up here Marketing When Nobody
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