How Honest Tea Used Live Streaming To Engage Customers (And Test Their Honesty)

Honest Tea embraced a realtime, interactive broadcast platform for its latest marketing campaign.  In what VentureBeat calls “a marketing stunt disguised as test of citizens’ honesty,” the organic beverage company set out unmanned displays of cold tea bottles in various cities, with hidden webcams to show whether customers paid for their tea on live-streaming video.

The pop-up tea stores were placed in prominent locations in 12 major cities throughout the US on July 19th, and customers could purchase tea on the honor system, one dollar per bottle.  Hidden cameras and live interactive broadcasting via Ustream allowed viewers to check the honesty of each passer-by that engaged with the campaign.  (Signs were posted explaining the legal rights to live broadcast/record the event, but the cameras were hidden).

Aimed at “young, tech-savvy professionals” who use social media, the streaming video was an important part of this marketing campaign, according to Honest Tea VP of Marketing Peter Kaye.  He told VentureBeat, “The live streaming certainly helped.  We will have doubled our number of ‘likes’ [on Facebook] to over 60,000 in one day.”  The Honest Tea Facebook page now has 69,688 fans. Social media allows customers to engage in conversation about the campaign before it started, during, and after.

Why is live streaming becoming an increasingly popular platform for advertisements?

  • high cost-per-thousand (CPM) ad rates (think the Super Bowl, American Idol, etc)
  • high levels of engagement it can command, via what Ustream CEO John Ham calls “simultaneous reach”
  • live video allows customers to see a new aspect of the campaign, in this case observing others’ choices in realtime

Honest Tea evaluated honesty on a city-by-city basis, with Chicago leading – 99% of visitors paid for their tea – while New York came in last – only 86% paid for their tea.  The stand on Wall Street, NYC was more honest (89%) than in Los Angeles (73%).  No pop-up store in your city? Online users were also polled, 99% of whom said they would pay for their tea.

The bottom line from VP of Marketing Kaye: “It is real time, and a good way to showcase what we have going on. It is very worthwhile and a very good investment.”  When asked whether the company would live stream again, he responded “I think definitely,” although he didn’t rule out the possibility of using other live stream platforms, including, and

Watch a video summarizing the campaign here:

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