Aug 08

Hint: Transparency in Marketing is Worthless if You Have Zero Passion About What You Do

This whole concept of transparency in marketing is hilarious to me. It seems like the buzz word to use if you want to sell books or get paid to speak.

Let’s think about this: say I work for Hummer. This would be utterly ridiculous, because everyone knows I love BMWs and Porsches and feel that driving a Hummer is the equivalent of wearing a name tag that says “asshole”. The more transparent I am, the more it comes across that I am totally miserable and probably hate your guts for wanting to pollute this lovely green Earth with your tacky Hummer. That’s not good marketing. That helps me in no way.

My ex-boyfriend and I ran an eBay Motors store that made half a million dollars profit in one year with just two people running it. Why? 1.) We (and in particular he) loved cars. We would watch every episode Top Gear and went on a vacation to the Laguna Seca race track. It was a labor of love. 2.) We wanted to make people feel happy by buying a car they loved. It felt great to sell a convertible to the women who just overcame cancer and wanted something fun. I loved giving an executive seamlessly good service so they could pick up their car and go on to something more productive. People are not stupid and they know when you care about them and when you are just trying to make a buck. Take care of them and they will take care of you.

Being transparent is worthless if you have no passion about what you do. You can come across as transparently greedy, or transparently bored, or transparently stupid. Having passion and feeling that the service you are providing will generally enrich someone’s life will make you transparent by default. Why? Because you are offering someone something that you see is good that will help them. Who wouldn’t be transparent about that?

  • PJ Brunet

    I think the “transparency” buzzword got traction after some corporations were caught blogging as fictional characters, the truth came out and they ended up looking like liars.

    But non-transparency worked for the Fake Steve Jobs.

    I’m brainstorming a new project now and part of me really wants it to be fiction, although the transparency issue was nagging me not to. I suppose fiction can be genuine and honest, written passionately, although all the invention involved is pretty hard.

  • PJ Brunet

    The drawback of transparency from a corporate perspective, the blogger holds all the cards. Like w/ Microsoft, one minute you got yourself a Robert Scoble, then *poof* your top blogger is gone and you’re left with nothing. As ad rates rise it will be harder than ever to pin down talent. When blogs pull six-figures, why bother looking for work? Every month I see a 15-25% increase in ad rates, the sky is the limit as far as I can tell.

    PJ Brunets last blog post..Media Temple Cluster-Server

  • Shel Holtz

    I think you’re confusing “transparency” with “authenticity.” I have a book coming out in November (co-written with John C. Havens) on transparency, which we define as the degree to which a company shares its leaders, employees, values, culture, strategy, business processes and the results of those processes with its publics. It’s the opposite of opacity, in which companies operate behind closed doors and shuttered windows.

    Keep in mind that Sarbanes Oxley is all about transparency and not one word of SOX calls for authenticity from employees, just honesty and accuracy about the processes in which the organization engaged.

  • Michelle


    I am asking people to take their transparency a step further by also being passionate about what they do. A seller should be both. No confusion there.

    I’ve been transparent as I’ve sold things to people. My transparency got managers very mad at me. I’ve been accused of having no business sense whatsoever. However, because I actually saw the merits of what I was selling, I crushed everyone else. I was transparent, but I was also passionate. Very important piece of the puzzle that often seems left out of the equation.

    It’s just a point that no one seems to be making.

  • Shel Holtz

    I think that’s great, Michelle, I really do. And I think it’s important in business in general and marketing in particular. But when I read a comment like PJ’s, I think, “That’s not transparency he’s talking about, it’s disclosure and authenticity.” If you were transparent in your business, it meant the windows were thrown open to expose your processes. The fact that you saw the merits of what you were selling made you passionate and authentic. Just a semantic difference.

  • Dave Freedman

    Guess what has become the latest buzzword in marketing. “Passionate.” Now it is obligatory in marketing to claim you are passionate about your product or service.
    Most people in the world are trying to survive and don’t have the luxury of feeling passionate about their work. I think many people who are just getting by will resent those who claim to be passionate, especially where there is no tangible support for that claim. It is better to demonstrate your passion by your actions (e.g., customer service) and not claim to be passionate. Anyway, do customers and clients really care if you are “passionate”? Do you know if anyone cares?

  • Michelle


    I absolutely care if my salesperson is passionate. One question I ask my salesperson–do you use this product? If not, it just doesn’t seem like they have a vested interest in the product. They are generally not as knowledgeable either.

    A lot of people have jobs they don’t like. While I appreciate it’s important to pay bills, you shouldn’t have to do it at the expense of yourself. One thing I wanted to accomplish with this post was to encourage those who aren’t passionate about what they do to find something they love. Why would I want to encourage people to do anything else? People should be happy doing their jobs.

    In regards to customer service, if you love what you have to offer, you will not alienate your customers by offering bad customer service because you believe they should come back.

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  • Linkvana

    Nice post here, I think its really important to do what you love, and if you don’t love it, at least find something about it that you do like until you can find something else that you do want to do.

    Linkvanas last blog post..LinkVana Discount

  • Joel “Cheaters Guide” Gutierrez

    I’ve learned this in offline marketing as well because of the fact that I get more gigs as a DJ because I am just myself and share that with the people that hire me. Needless to say I get more repeat business just because of the fact that I am awesome at what I do and people love me for just being me… :0) Great post!

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