You want great marketing? Start with your toilet.

I was doing a marketing workshop with a group of executives not too long ago. We were mapping out how to ground marketing in the mission, vision and values of their company.

It was during that discussion that one of the CEOs piped up and said “You want to figure out what a company stands for, check their toilet.” Her fellow workshoppers were stunned. I laughed out loud. She had hit on the motherlode of what creates an authentic brand – and tapped into one of the most powerful marketing tools ever.

Let me explain.

Your brand is what you do when nobody’s watching

Your company toilet – not the fancy one the clients use or the executive one in the CEO’s office (wait, do CEO’s even have offices anymore?) represents your brand in the most authentic, unvarnished way possible.

The CEO who made the comment told us what was in her company toilet – air freshener, pictures, nice magazines, a couple of fancy soaps and clean towels. What did that tell employees about how the company felt about them?

One after another, the other workshoppers unpacked what was in their toilets. It was, to put it mildly, eye-opening.
“Beige walls, beige floor, mirror, clanging ventilator.”

“We have paper towels stacked everywhere. I found paper towels on sale, so I bought a caseload.”

“We share offices, so we don’t have a toilet. I don’t even know where the key is.”

If you were an employee and you went into any of the toilets described above, how would you feel about your company?

And, more important, how would you describe your company to the hundreds of people you talked to in a week.

Skip the fancy ads. Fix the plumbing.

The lesson here? Fancy, expensive marketing tactics don’t work nearly as well as being the brand you promise to your audience.

Take a hard look at your mission, vision, and values. Then look at your company toilet, or company kitchen. Is everything in alignment?

If there’s a disconnect, your marketing (not to mention your mission, vision and values) will be disingenuous. That will create cynicism among your employees. Employees – especially for SME’s – are one of the most powerful marketing tools out there. What will cynical employees say about you?


Three tips to get you started. 

  1. Take a stroll around your office. Even better, invite a few friends (male and female) who aren’t on the payroll to stroll around with you. Ask them for their unvarnished opinions.
  2. If there’s someone on your staff the employees turn to for solace, engage that person to sit down with key members of your staff (I usually say someone from marketing, operations, sales, and – most important – someone who takes customer complaint calls!), ask “So, what could we be doing better?” and listen. Yes, there will be moaning – but there might also be nuggets of gold.
  3. Create an idea wall (Hats off to Briand Scudamore of 1-800-Got Junk for this one) and invite your employees to huddle around it once a week. Call out for them to post ideas to make the company better. Implement one idea a month to demonstrate you’re serious.

Once you start building your brand from the inside out this way, you’ll start to notice a change. That’s the sort of change you can base a successful marketing campaign on. I’d be happy to talk to you about that anytime.

[pullquote]“Your company toilet represents your brand in the most authentic way possible.”[/pullquote]




[pullquote]Fancy, expensive marketing doesn’t work nearly as well as being the brand you promise your audience. [/pullquote]








Marc Stoiber is The $2000 Coffee’s marketing expert. He's also founder and CEO of Your Ultimate Speech, author of Didn't See It Coming, marketing prof at Royal Roads, prolific public speaker on brands, and (in his spare time) a marketing consultant.