Midwesterners Not as Honest as You Might Think

Results of Honest Tea Promotion Just Might Surprise You

By Published on . 13

New Yorkers might get a bad rap for being rude, brusque or arrogant, but they're honest. Well more honest than Los Angelenos, at least.

Honest Tea, an organic bottled tea company that Coca-Cola has a stake in, set out to determine just how honest citizens of various cities around the country were. In other words, if consumers happened upon an unmanned display of beverages, would they pay for them?

As part of the marketing stunt, the brand set up unmanned kiosks of Honest Tea in seven major cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington. Signage at the kiosks let consumers know that each bottle was $1 and payment was on the honor system. A box was set out in front to collect the cash. Honest Tea, of course, was capturing the action with hidden cameras. The brand worked with SS&K, a New York firm, and Los Angeles-based Formula PR.


"Although a sociologist might find flaws with our social experiment, we were surprised and heartened to discover that across the country, Americans will do the right thing, even when no one is looking," said Seth Goldman, Honest Tea's CEO.

"We wanted to challenge folks to consider how honest we are as a society, and so far, the results have been very encouraging," added Jesse Merrill, marketing director at Honest Tea.

The majority of consumers did in fact pay for the beverages, though in Los Angeles a full 25% of consumers swiped the bottles without paying. With 93.3% of consumers paying, Boston just edged out Washington, which had 93% of consumers pay, to claim the honors as the most honest city. A surprise when you consider that the politicians and lobbyists who call D.C. home get a bad rap for being among the most dishonest and corrupt individuals in the country. And those wholesome Midwesterners in Chicago aren't as honest as they're made out to be, after all. Just 78% of Chicagoans dropped a $1 in the box, before taking off with a bottle of tea. New York and Atlanta tied, with 89% of consumers paying for the tea, while San Francisco was 91% honest.

Mr. Merrill said the brand plans to build on the campaign in the next year and hopes to turn it into an annual event. To identify the cities it will visit, the brand will poll people through social media channels, he said. Plans are also underway for "Honest Campus," a version that will take place on college campuses.

The footage has been spliced into short videos now available on YouTube. And a national video will be released and promoted online soon. Proceeds from the stunt are being donated to nonprofits like City Year and Hands on Atlanta.

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