Its not the "What" but the "Why" that counts in marketing.

Recently I revisited a rather excellent TEDTalk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek. In it he explores why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty?

In studying the leaders who've had the greatest influence in the world, Sinek discovered that they all think, act, and communicate in the exact same way-and it's the complete opposite of what everyone else does. People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers might have little in common, but they all started with WHY not WHAT.

The principle is simple. Give a vision and a reason for being and you get greater buy in and emotional connection. Tell the WHAT, and you get a 'meh'.

For example, if Apple were like everybody else a marketing message from them might sound like this: "We make great computers. They're beautifully designed and simple to use. Wanna buy one?" Answer : maybe. i.e. like most marketers, they would say WHAT they do, HOW they do it and expect some behaviour.

Instead, they worked the other way round: "Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently (WHY). We challenge the status quo by making products that are beautifully designed and simple to use (HOW). We just happen to make great computers (WHAT). Wanna buy one?" Answer : Hell yeah!

So lets not forget the WHY of what we do and bring that to the fore of our marketing. You might  be sceptical that your business or service has one, but rest assured you do! Your company does stand for something, have a strong point of view on an issue/subject or have a vision for the future. It could be:

  • a better way of doing business,
  • a desire to rid the world of costs, inefficiencies, inequalities or inadequacies,
  • an opportunity to increase access to certain types of services or
  • a passion to make people's lives better.

Of course it has to be authentic, but whatever it is, bring it alive in your marketing and start with the WHY not the WHAT.