The WHY in your Brand

Beta or VHS
Best Often Loses
If you are old enough to remember VHS, you also remember Betamax. Technology geeks often say that Betamax was a far superior product. Why didn’t Betamax win during the video tape wars?

Have you ever used TIVO? Tivo was a superb technology that did amazing things that no one else’s had achieved. They were first, they were excellent but today we say we Tivo (as a verb) but few use it as a technology to record shows. Why?

Simon Sinek's WHY
In Start with Why, a book by Simon Sinek, these and other similar examples are discussed. He argues that the root cause of the marketing problem that most brands experience is that they don't start with WHY. 

WHY explains the reason your brand exists and how it motivates your tribe. 

WHAT explains the details and information without motivation or emotion. 

Those who love Apple products know WHY- they are buying into an emotional state where breaking with tradition is celebrated. If you fly Southwest, you are part of an effort to fight a class-war (First class seating anyone?) on an airline and searching to have a more egalitarian travel experience. Martin Luther Kings, Jr. said I have a dream- not I have a plan. He was all about the WHY. 

WHY, is a great way to start. It is the emotional fuel that a brand can harness that can catapult it along for a joy ride.  

In the book Simon talks about The Golden Circle. When WHY is in the middle, a business has a real purpose beyond the features and benefits of what you do. It is not just a vision but a way to harmonize, unify and organize those who believe in a common world view. 

Apple started with WHY. Southwest started with WHY. They had a purpose larger than the HOW and WHAT. Find more at about this idea at Simon's link at Start With Why

Did you business start with a strong and powerful WHY? 

On some recent travel to Spain, I took the high speed train from Madrid to Zaragoza. This is normally a 4 hour car ride but at 300 km per hour, we arrived in an hour and 15 minutes. We left the train station exactly on time and arrived exactly on time. When I say on time I mean TO THE MINUTE on time.

What a strange experience given how fraught airline travel is today and how lacks people can be in respecting the clock. And in a country where things tend to be a little slower, this on time train was a really enjoyable surprise.

Exceptional brands do need a powerful reason WHY. It becomes a rallying call for the troops. But to be the best, you must also make sure you execute with precision and you live up to your brand promises so the WHAT needs to support the WHY. 

Auditing your brand

Connecting a brand to a community
UNDERSTANDING: Does the community that surrounds your brand (employees, customers, executive team, competitors, shareholders, local community and others) all understand your WHY? Do they know exactly and precisely what you stand for in the marketplace? Is it based on what you do or the more important reason why you do this? When your brand is connected emotionally to someone, they will share your story. Think Tom's Shoes

Separating wheat from chaff

FILTER: Does everyone know what fits and doesn’t fit in your brand? Do you have a brand filter or lens that helps everyone determine what works and doesn’t work? 

A great example of bad filtering from the past month: Maker's Mark decision to dilute it's famous bourbon resulted in a overwhelmingly negative reaction by its loyal fans. They didn't use their brand filter to stop and ask, what happens if we screw with a recipe that hasn't changed since its inception in 1954? It seems that the brand management was being taken over by supply chain or worse, finance. Happily they realized their mistake but clearly the company forgot its own WHY. 

Maker's Mark's markdown
In Start with Why, Sinek offers what he calls The Celery Test. If your brand represents a healthy lifestyle, you can quickly judge what items on a shopping list would fit and what wouldn’t. (Rice Milk, cereal, Oreos and M&M). A brand filter helps you look at all the incoming ideas, products and suggestions and helps you to filter through the choices. With a healthy lifestyle at the core of your brand's WHY, clearly rice milk fits and cereal might if the sugar content isn't too high---but Oreos and M&M’s are probably not going to make the cut. A filter can protect a brand's WHY from dilution. 

Wheat from Chaff
Brands that have depth are good at communicating WHY they exist and filter out the impurities that can degrade the value. As a marketer, you must become the sheriff with both a megaphone and a filter.

Read Simon's book. Watch him on a Ted Talk. Don't ask why

All aboard.

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