Why, how, what imageI had the opportunity recently to view a TEDx talk by Simon Sinek on the topic of how great leaders inspire action and it really got me to thinking about why I do what I do and how the approach Simon describes might work for you as well.

His premise is that most marketing messages describe the “what” of a product — its feature and benefits. The message may also contain information on how the product provides what it provides.

And it may even delve into why you are offering that product (or service) but by this time you’ve lost the attention of your audience and actually never really connected to their emotions in the first place.

I’ve often mentioned the need for messages that resonate.

By this I mean messages that connect with the target audience on an emotional level. If you follow Cathey Armillos at all, you’ll recognize that she says the same thing.

Purchases are driven by emotion and rationalized by logic. So it makes sense, doesn’t it, to start at the center and work outward if we want to be most successful.

Key Takeaways:

  • Great leaders and companies like Apple succeed by focusing on their purpose or cause (‘Why’), then how they achieve it (‘How’), and finally what they offer (‘What’).
  • The golden circle principle demonstrates that communicating a compelling ‘Why’ builds trust, engagement, and loyalty, driving both strategy (‘How’) and outcomes (‘What’).
  • Effective messaging resonates emotionally, driving purchases that are rationalized by logic, underscoring the need to articulate the purpose behind products or services to truly connect with consumers.

Why Don’t We Do That?

Because we weren’t trained that way.

Marketing 101 gets us to convert features to benefits, of course, but it doesn’t get us to why we are offering this product or service in the first place or, more importantly, why a prospective customer should care about it.

Simon Sinek’s golden circle is explained through Apple and TIVO as examples of great successes and failures in his talk (which you can find here).

Apple inspires enough people to be early adopters of its products to convince the early majority to buy them as well, even though it makes them out of the same materials that any other computer company uses.

But it’s purpose is to change the way people interact with technology and it thus positions itself almost as a cause or a movement instead of as a commodity product manufacturer.

Whereas TIVO, which arguably produces the highest quality video recording device, has never taken off because people didn’t believe that they needed it. It didn’t cause them to feel special through owing one.

A Quick Summary of Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle

Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why”, as well as his influential TED Talks are definitely worth checking out.

In the meantime, here is a short version of the “golden circle” principle:

The Concept of ‘Why’ in the Golden Circle

The ‘Why’ refers to an organization’s purpose, cause or motivations that inspire action. Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle model puts ‘Why’ at the core, driving the ‘How’ (actions) and ‘What’ (results). Great leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. started with their ‘Why’ of racial justice before strategic actions and results.

Visionary companies like Apple, Nike and Harley-Davidson build loyalty focusing on ‘Why’ over ‘What’. Their core purpose drives business decisions. Research shows starting with ‘Why’ inspires trust and engagement.

Exploring the ‘How’

The ‘How’ details how organizations align business strategies and operations to fulfill their ‘Why’. Patagonia’s sustainable practices reflect its environmental ‘Why’. Its manufacturing methods empower staff realization of corporate responsibilities.

Other examples are IKEA’s unique furniture assembly process bringing affordable products to consumers and Disney’s focus on magical guest experiences. The alignment of these practical building blocks with higher purpose defines exceptional ‘How’ execution.

The ‘What’ Aspect

The ‘What’ refers to an organization’s tangible outcomes resulting from living their ‘Why’ through principled ‘How’ execution. For TOMS Shoes, their ‘One for One’ donation model provides shoes to children in need with every purchase, fulfilling their humanitarian ‘Why’.

For others like Zappos, their superior customer service ‘How’ delivers satisfied customers and positive brand impressions (‘What’). By focusing first on purpose then people/process, the ‘What’ builds itself.

Wrapping Up

I found that Simon’s remarks on “why how and what” resonated with me and, if you watch the video of his talk I hope they’ll resonate with you as well.

I know that I’ll think twice about whether my work with clients on markets, messages and media is helping them focus on working from the inside out — why first, then how and finally what — so that they can connect best with their prospective clients and customers.

As always, I’d love to have your remarks and opinions. Thanks for reading.