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If you’ve ever been in a dead-end job or a failing business you’ve probably asked yourself why you even bother. It’s that lack of a good ‘why’ that not only drives great staff away from working in a business, but prevents new customers buying from it. Who can blame them? If you don’t know why you’re doing what you do for a living, then why on earth should anyone else care? Now before you answer, ‘I do it for the money’ you need to understand that’s not a compelling ‘why’ but it is the end result of having one.

  1. You probably know your ‘what’ – what does your business do?
  2. You might even know your ‘how’ – how do you do things better or differently?
  3. But do you know your ‘why’ – why do you do what you do in the way that you do it?

Great Brands Communicate Their ‘Why’

Think about the business leaders, thought leaders and great brands out there in the world. It’s easy to identify their ‘why’. Just look at Apple. They want to be innovators, to ‘think different’ and change the status quo. They clearly communicate it in every product they make and every marketing message they release. Their customers believe in the brand’s ‘why’. It resonates with them on a deeply emotional, almost unexplainable level. As such their customers become passionate brand advocates, many of whom are loyal to Apple for life. Apple’s ‘why’ messaging even permeates throughout their internal staff communications. So Apple attracts employees who believe in their ‘why’ too.

The ‘Why’ and Decision Making

What’s so compelling about a clearly communicated ‘why’? The answer is a simple case of psychology and biology. Consumers make every purchase choice on emotional level. Even if people tell you they had a rational reason for buying, their brand preference and final choice is emotional.

Evolutionary speaking, the part of the brain that makes these buying choices is the oldest and most ‘instinctive’. It doesn’t operate on a logical level. It works on what we colloquially call ‘gut feeling’. What’s more interesting is, the higher the dollar value of the product or service, the more ‘gut feeling’ plays a part in the decision. How often do people buy a car they just ‘fell in love with’ or a house that had a ‘really good vibe’?

Every purchase choice is based on a desired outcome: to look cool, to be first with the latest, to have the best, to feel comfortable, to compete with friends, to attract a mate, to feel beautiful etc. Our human emotions and instincts rule our wallets. It’s human nature to feel first, then think.

Let’s Get Personal

Customers like to purchase from companies and brands they feel align with their own values. That means they relate to brand essence on a personal and emotional level. They like brands that think, act and talk like they and their peers do. People will pay more for free range eggs, organic vegetables and dolphin friendly tuna. They do it because their personal values align with those of the brand essence. They emotionally connect with the ‘why’.

Marketing expert Simon Sinek says that’s why businesses get it all wrong when talking to consumers.

We say what we do, we say how we’re different or better and we expect some sort of a behaviour, a purchase, a vote, something like that. Here’s our new law firm: We have the best lawyers with the biggest clients, we always perform for our clients. Here’s our new car: It gets great gas mileage; it has leather seats. Buy our car. But it’s uninspiring.

Instead, he says it’s best to communicate your ‘why’ first, then follow up with the ‘how’ and if necessary, the ‘what’. The ‘why’ will always inspire people because it connects with them on an emotional level. To use the car example, how compelling would a line like, ‘We believe in freedom’ be as an opening message for an advertisement? It’s far more inspiring than leading with the car’s ‘how’.

Identifying Your ‘Why’

Plenty of businesses can tell you what they do, some can tell you how they do it, but not everyone can say why. It’s vital everyone in your business understands the answers to all three – the what, how and the why. Begin by asking yourself a few questions about your business, bearing in mind your answers need to be focused on what matters to your current and desired customers.

  1. Why: This is the core belief of your business. Why does the business exist? Why do you do what you do in the way you do it? What gets you out of bed every morning?
  2. How:  How does your business accomplish the core belief? In what ways do you provide products or services differently to and better than your competitors? Some people refer to the ‘how’ as your USP, but it also relates to the ways in which you operate e.g. ‘service with a smile’.
  3. What: What the company does to achieve that core belief. What product/s and/or service/s do you offer? What does your company do?

Communications that Cut Through

In a world of distraction, we’re constantly fed information. Advertisements scream at us from almost every flat surface, every form of media we consume comes with a serving of advertising. Marketing is becoming more focussed, personalised and targeted. It’s easy to tune out from the barrage of companies saying the same thing: ‘This is what we do, here’s how we do it, buy our product.’

When your business knows its ‘why’, messaging for communications becomes clear. You’re better equipt to create communications that cut through the chatter and make a lasting impression on people. The strategy, language, tone and personality of the brand become obvious; you no longer have to second guess how to communicate internally or externally.

When you clearly communicate your ‘why’ in every marketing effort, you’ll attract customers that will be proud brand advocates and ambassadors. You’ll also attract employees who also believe in the same ‘why’ and will work passionately to help the company achieve it. Not only that, you’ll retain them. Your business’ ‘why’ is the filter you use to make all business and brand essence choices and be more fulfilled while doing so. Best of all, your business bottom line will see results.

Here’s a great TED talk from Simon Sinek about the importance of finding and communicating your ‘why’.

If you’d like help with your brand essence and clearly communicating your brand’s ‘why’, contact Viabrand.