You’re Always On the Kiss Cam

This article caught my eye last month.  See if you can spot the marketing message:

Kissing Freedom Goodbye

Wanted Man Busted by Baseball ‘Kiss Cam’

The Associated Press

C I N C I N N A T I, May 29— A man wanted on a parole violation was returned to jail after his parole officer spotted him kissing his girlfriend in a live crowd shot on the scoreboard at a Cincinnati Reds game.

David Horton and his parole officer attended the same May 7 game when the smooching couple were caught by the "Kiss Cam" at Great American Ball Park.

The parole officer and a police officer arrested Horton, 24, at his front-row seat, and he was taken to the Hamilton County Justice Center.

"Out of all the coincidences, we had 20- or 30,000 people at the ballpark, and who do they put on the ‘Kiss Cam’? And then, who is there but his parole officer?" said Richard Goldberg, Horton’s attorney.

Horton, of Cincinnati, was convicted of felonious assault in 1999 for stabbing two men. He was granted release after serving two years of a four-year prison sentence.

Horton had been arrested March 27 and was indicted in Hamilton County for trafficking and possession of cocaine. He is accused of failing to appear in court on those charges.

If convicted, he could face up to 18 years in prison.

What Does This Have to Do with Marketing?

The Kiss Cam is the realization that you’re always advertising yourself and your business.  Entrepreneurs and salespeople are always "on," always giving free samples of what it’s like to do business with them.

I became miserably aware of this early in my career, when I was a schoolteacher and cantor in Princeton, New Jersey.  I taught hundreds of students each year and led religious services for hundreds of college students, faculty, and community members.  I was a respected member of the community, a beacon of spirituality, and a source of wisdom to thousands.

I was also an immature, hot-tempered, self-centered, stupid, smart aleck.  And I didn’t recognize by sight most of the people who thought me a paragon of virtue.

I was on the Kiss Cam big time, and it took me quite a while to realize it.  Until I reformed, I was continually apologizing to my "customers" for

    * giving them the finger, honking, or cussing them on the road
    * getting huffy with them in stores, sporting events, and theaters
    * telling offensive jokes
    * acting like they were idiots and I was all-knowing
    * stuff there’s no way I’m revealing, on the advice of my attorney

I had to make a choice: give up the jobs that gave me public exposure and expectations of, if not saintliness, at least better-than-averageness, or bring my leisure time behavior in line with those expectations.

I chose to improve myself.  And while it was an act for a while (and sometimes still is, you’ll be shocked to learn), the more I behave like my "best customers" expect me to behave, the more effective I am and the more I like myself.

Last week my wife was getting a prescription filled at the pharmacist.  She was waiting on line behind an elderly woman who was confused about her insurance coverage, her dosage, and her payment method.  As the woman exited, the pharmacist and his assistant rolled their eyes and made fun of the woman. Now my wife and I wonder what they’re saying about us in front of their other customers.  We haven’t switched pharmacies because of it, but we’re no longer "loyal" customers.  Now we’re looking for a reason to switch.

Your Competitive Advantage

How you answer your business phone, how you negotiate with vendors, how you treat customers and prospects, how you deal with your neighbor with the barking dog, how you discipline your kids in the grocery store – all these are advertisements for or against your business. They differ from "traditional" advertising in two important ways.

First, you get to choose whether or not to advertise in the newspaper or Yellow Pages.  But your behavior advertises you 24/7, whether you want it to or not.

Second, your behavior is infinitely more credible than your words.  In the newspaper ad, you can say, "We care about our customers" all you want, and nobody’s going to believe you.  But when they experience your caring, or hear about it from their friends and neighbors, no convincing is necessary. You’ve bridged the credibility gap.

Lest you think that I’m just advocating being a good person, let me tie this advice to an appeal to your greed glands.  In order to appreciate how powerful this strategy is for building your business, you have to realize how unusual it is for businesspeople to be aware of the fact that they’re always on the Kiss Cam.

We delude ourselves into thinking that we’re not in public all the time.  Look at how people behave in their cars, on public roads.  First of all, they pick their noses.  People in a clear glass box, just a few feet away from hundreds of other people, picking their noses and applying mascara and for all the world acting like nobody can see them.

Here’s a marketing experiment: Get some magnetic signs for your car that advertise your business. Then, as you drive around, let pedestrians cross in front of you, give right of way to motorists pulling out of driveways, go two miles under the speed limit on residential streets, and break for small furry animals.  That’s the only form of "brand-building" I’d ever recommend to my clients.

And it will go a long way toward making the rest of your marketing believable.

There’s an old Jewish tale about a rabbi who lamented, "I wish people would fear God as much as they fear other people."  One of his followers asked, "Only as much as that?  Surely people should fear God more than they fear each other."  The rabbi replied sadly, "I’d settle for that. People always look around and say, ‘I hope nobody sees me.’"

Go out there and make this a beautiful day for your business.  And pucker up – you’re on the Kiss Cam!


Conscience is the inner voice which warns us that someone may be looking.
– H. L. Mencken

If you want to know how pious a man is, don’t watch him while he prays. Watch him while he eats.
– Jewish Proverb

It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.
– John Andrew Holmes

And I wish you’d stop whispering.
Don’t flatter yourself, nobody’s listening.
Still it makes me nervous, those things you say.
You may as well
Shout it from the roof
Scream it from your lungs
Spit it from your mouth
There’s a spy in the sky
There’s a noise on the wire
There’s a tap on the line
And for every paranoid’s desire…
There’s always someone looking at you.
– Bob Geldof, The Boomtown Rats

Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?
– Groucho Marx

I just got skylights put in my place. The people who live above me are furious.
– Steven Wright

Marketing Motivators on the Kiss Cam

1. Think about your own Kiss Cam – a time you witnessed a colleague, vendor, or client make a fool of themselves or act badly in public.  I’ve witnessed drunkenness, obscene jokes, inappropriate come-ons, uncontrolled rage, pettiness, negativism, racism, sexism, homophobia, cruelty to animals – you name it.  It’s hard to see the person in the same light ever again.  It’s rare, in fact, to ever speak of the matter to the offending person.

2. Make a list of five common situations in which your "off-duty" behavior has been or could be noticed by customers. In each situation, write down one behavior of yours that would turn them off, and one behavior that would turn them on.

3. Remember the Danny Kaye movie, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"?  He fantasized about performing all sorts of heroics to win the woman of his dreams.  Let your imagination run wild.  How would you like to be "caught" by the customer of your dreams.  What are you doing? How are you acting? Write a paragraph describing what the customer sees and hears.

Bonus Quotes

Could it be that all those trick-or-treaters wearing sheets aren’t going as ghosts, but as mattresses?
– George Carlin

If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there are men on base.
– Dave Barry

Why do they lock gas station bathrooms? Are they afraid someone will clean them?
– George Carlin

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