For any of you avid TED talk watchers, there's a good chance that you've already identified this phrase as the words of Simon Sinek in his inspirational 2009 TEDx speech "How Great Leaders Inspire Action". If you haven't seen this talk, I would strongly recommend taking 18 minutes of your day to watch his amazing talk (see video below).
In his talk Simon makes a huge point that has fundamentally changed the way I look at marketing and branding. Your customers do not care about whatever your product or service is (the what), what they care about is why you are in existence (the why).
This is almost a rebirth of the "Vision and Mission" craze that was so popular in the 70's and 80's, but repackaged into a more modernist view and disbursed throughout all your branding and messaging.
In his talk, Simon revels his "Golden Circle" which he explains that most businesses and leads work from the outside (the what) in, starting with the product. The correct way to work is in-fact the opposite, starting with asking why and then move to how and lastly what.
Simon gives the great example of Apple Computers. Here's how Simon explains Apple is using the golden circle effectively to develop their successful brand and products.
- Start With Why: "In everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently."
- How We Do This: "The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly."
- What We Create: "We happen to make great computers... What to Buy One?"
This inside-out approach to branding and messaging is extremely powerful, inspirational and connects with users on a much deeper level. This in turn will drive action and create loyal and excited brand advocates. The best part is you can do this exact same thing with your brand!
So you're saying, "Ok Luke, this makes sense and sounds great, but how do I actually do this within my brand and marketing message?"
We are very lucky that we are living in the age where the tools of social media and mobile technology give us an amazing way to showcase why our brands exist. Let's take a look at some of the tools we can use and how to bring across your brand's "WHY" message to your audience.
Show Them Who You Are:
There are so many great visual social networks that will allow you to every effectively show why your brand exists. These include: Instagram, Pinterst, Vine, Youtube, Tumblr, etc. and maybe a combination of multiple tools.
Which one should you use? Well it's important to pick the right tool (network) that fits your audience and has already been adopted by them. Do some research on each tool and use the one with the best demographic and usage fit.
An example of a brand that is doing an awesome job of this is Patagonia on Tumblr. Here they don't show the "What" (their products). They take the essence of "Why" their brand exists and transform it into amazing visuals of the great outdoors and personal experiences.
Before doing this for your brand, do some research and find some brands that are doing this "story telling" of why their brand exists, they are all over the social web. Then take what you learn and translate this into your own brands representation of the "Why".
Here are some other examples I've found on the web of brands using social to show the "Why" their brand exists:
Tell Them Who You Are:
Of course, creating visuals to explain the "Why" isn't the only way to bring this across. You can leverage effective copywriting to help bring this message to your audience.
Starting with the "Why", take a look at your brand's tagline. Does it inspire? Does it excite? Does it tell why your brand is in existence? There's a good chance it probably does not do any of these, so take the time to start by asking why and then re-develop an amazing tagline.
Once your tagline is inspirational, then take some time to go through every written element to re-vamp it to be inspiring. Look at your website (page titles, copy, call to actions, etc), look at any printed materials, lead nurturing campaigns and anything other copy. It's important that everything you do inspires and brings across the "Why" in your brand.
Design Campaigns Around This:
You can also bring across the "Why" in your brand by creating specific marketing campaigns. The goal of these campaigns isn't to drive sales, as least not directly. Your goal will be to communicate with your audience and establish why your brand exists and
One industry that does this in an amazing way is the energy drink industry. RedBull is a master in telling the world why they are a brand, not simply "We Sell Energy Drinks". One of RedBull's most famous marketing campaigns was to set the world record for the highest skydive: "Mission Stratos". They worked with rocket scientists to develop a craft that could travel into the earth's atmosphere and allow Felix Baumgartner to dive down to earth from 120K Feet at 300 miles per hour.
Although this campaign generated a mind-blowing amount of media attention, RedBull's goal was not to showcase their product (the "what"). Instead, they wanted show why their brand existed; To Push the Limits of What's Possible.
This is just one campaign by RedBull that effectively explains why their brand is in existence. There are many, many other examples by RedBull and others in the energy drink industry. It's a great place to study their marketing to learn more about how to effectively develop campaigns around the "Why".
In addition to creating specific campaigns with a goal of showcasing the "Why", make sure that all of your marketing campaigns keep the "Why" in mind. So even if the campaign's goal is to generate 100 new leads or to bring attention to a new product or service, be creative and find a way to do it while also showcasing and relating back to the "Why".
These are just a few ideas on how to show your audience why your brand exists and build that inspirational, powerful and deep connection with users. There are many other ways to do this and if you have other ideas, please post them in the comments below.
I'd also encourage you to draft up and print out your own golden circle and tape it on your workspace as a constant reminder to start with the why in all your marketing.
Lastly, make the effort to change the way you approach your marketing and adopt an inside-out approach in everything you do. The first question you should ask is the "Why" and then build and develop that marketing around the why, eventually ending at the how. This is the only true way to build a successful and strong brand.