Have you ever wondered why you have a deeper relationship with some brands and don’t with others? Why do some brands become more emotionally connected to their customers? Why do people line-up for an Apple brand and not for a Microsoft brand? Where does the passion start – with a brand or with a customer?
Brands lead by a visionary, or focused on a cause or belief, start their relationship from a level of passion of doing something that is right for their customers and for the world. Steve Jobs didn’t talk about how they build the iPod mercury-free LED-backlit display or its recyclable aluminum enclosure or it’s Mac: OS X v10.6.8 system requirements. He talked about the “why” of changing the digital world forever. As he said “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” I guess he was crazy because he and Apple changed the music and the smartphone world forever. I think Microsoft talked more about the “how” they were going to dominate the computer world with their Windows operating system.
Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group of over 300 companies worldwide, had a simple goal to give people something to believe in and someone to identify with. Branson says “companies must be more than just moneymaking machines. They must become a force for good, they must use their entrepreneurial skills to make a real difference in the world, and they must use their financial resources to make a real difference in the world.” So it’s not surprising that Virgin Atlantic Airways mission statement explains the why “to embrace the human spirit and let it fly.”
Sam Walton a frugal man had a simple dream of providing people with affordable products to make people’s lives better. “If we work together,” Sam said, “we’ll lower the cost of living for everyone…we’ll give the world an opportunity to see what it’s like to save and have a better life.” “Saving people money so they can live better” is the driving force and the why behind Walmart, the retail chain that Sam started. Walmart retail network has over 11,400 outlets in 27 countries with more than 260 million weekly customers and over $482.2 billion in sales in 2014.
“Start something that matters,” is Blake Mycoskie’s motto and the foundation to his shoe and accessories company, Toms. His business concept of buy-one-give-one is well-known and has been copied in many other business ventures. His advice is to “stay true to what you believe.”
Making a difference in people’s lives seems to be the starting point for all successful brands. To elevate the purpose beyond the functional wants and needs of a consumer to a higher-good of fulfilment, identity, affiliation and societal or environmental altruism is the ultimate.
Mark Addicks, former CMO of General Mills explained how Cheerio’s brand was stuck on the functional benefits surrounding heart health. A noble benefit but it didn’t inspire anyone nor did it connect to the consumer. It wasn’t until they probed deeper into the emotional insights that they found the “why” to the brand. The brand’s why is based on “nurturing.” Remember the first powerful moment of an infant learning to feed themselves with Cheerios. Today, nurturing is the driving force behind the Cheerios brand.
When Unilever Dove Soap brand was launched in 1964 it talked about its unique selling proposition which was its formulation with 1/4 moisturizing cream. Facing stiff competition from P&G (Oil of Olay and Ivory Moisture Care) in 1991 Dove shifted gears but still within the functional benefits positioning Dove with a very rational campaign called the “litmus” test. In 2004, Dove finally understood the important of the “why” and shifted from the “what” to the purpose of supporting the “real truth about beauty” in women. They went from ¼ moisturizing cream to a discussion of what defines beauty and started a movement about self-esteem. Advertising Age reported that Dove’s sales increased to $4-billion in 2014, compared with $2.5-billion in 2004. The “why” is a beautiful investment.
A brand purpose must be simple and clearly understood by everyone in the company so they can emulate it every day. It must be single minded in its focus and speak with one voice. It doesn’t hurt to have a leader who is passionate about what the brand stands for and believes in its purpose. A powerful leader can inspire and rally behind the brand purpose
It is this passion of “why” the brand does what it does, that gives customers a reason to embrace a brand. In the book Starting with Why author Simon Sinek explains that successful brands communicate the why’s (beliefs, causes, visions) before they communicate what they do and how they do it. Martin Luther Kings, Jr. said “I have a dream” not “I have a plan.” It was all about the why.
To start to understand what your brand stands for here are some why questions that can help guide you:
- Can you clearly and simply explain “why” your brand does what it does?
- How do your marketing efforts support the “why” of your brand?
- Does your brand communicate the “why” to your customers?
- Do you maintain a client-focused emotional brand that support the “why”?
Allen Adamson author of BrandDigital, BrandSimple, and The Edge says “A company that looks at its brand and asks not simply what promise does it make, but what purpose does it serve, to its customers and its shareholders, and brings this purpose to life through every customer experience will be the company most likely to beat its competition. When an employee can answer the question “Why am I here?” in a positively motivating way, everyone benefits.”
Now you know “why”.