More By This Author

Current Issue

Current Issue

Posted: May 07, 2012

More on inspiring your audience with “why”

People crave meaning -- so give it to them

Joel Pilger

(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part 1.)

Rather than telling the world what they do, let’s imagine Company XYZ expressing themselves in terms of why they do it:

To rescue businesses from waste and inefficiency...

To help families share quality time together...

To save lives...

To challenge the status quo...

To make the world a better place...

I’m betting one or more of these statements just stirred something in you. It’s amazing how expressing your brand in terms of why instead of what elicits curiosity, emotion, maybe even passion. Now you are telling a story like Hollywood!

What you’ve just experienced demonstrates a powerful marketing principle that I’ve learned (the hard way) over the past 20 years: It’s not about what your customers are buying. It’s about what they’re buying into.

At my creative agency, Impossible, we see companies and brands as stories. We love telling those stories to inspire and move audiences. (Interestingly, this explains why 99 percent of our work is in the form of moving pictures for television, video and the web. When it comes to being emotionally engaging, we’ve found no more powerful medium.)

Our television network clients are usually big fans of expressing their why. A terrific example is this simple branding statement from the parent company of Discovery Channel: Discovery is more than the name of our company... it is our very calling.

See how that statement stirs something deep within you? Rather than telling you what Discovery does, it tells you why they do it. And if you’re like me, now you want to know more. Maybe even get on board with their “calling.” You just got inspired!

Tell the Truth

Now think about your brand. What you say about your brand, is it actually true? Does it inspire? Or is it merely a contrivance, telling people what they want to hear? Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, exposes the absurdity of this approach:

“Many companies go into the market to ask their customers what they want...what they believe. Some clever marketers take all that wonderful data and mine it for insights which become the basis upon which they build their brand – how they will [appear] in the market.”

It’s sad but true: many companies are out of touch, or afraid, of their why so they ask focus groups, “What should our brand stand for?” It’s a crisis of authenticity. You can’t ask someone else to tell you what you believe. That’s like a tiger asking you, “Should I have stripes? Or would you like me better without them...”

Go Why or Go Home

Now it’s your turn. Does the thought of telling the world your why make you nervous? For many of us, why is a scandalous little word, because it exposes us. It reveals our motives.

Don’t be afraid. Every brand and company is a remarkable story just waiting to be told. People crave meaning in their lives, and your brand or company can give it to them. Get clear about your why and let it begin to inspire your customers, your colleagues and your community in ways you never thought possible.

Joel Pilger is president and founder of Impossible, a creative agency that produces moving images for television networks and corporate clients alike. His passion is helping his clients’ brands emotionally engage with their audiences. Sign up for Impossible’s newsletter or read Joel’s insights. For more information about Impossible, visit www.impossible.tv

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Well written Joel. Insightful look into business... By Marc on 2012 05 09
Joel, I loved this article! When I do business planning with entrepreneurs, one of the questions is what is your BIG WHY? It's their fire to attain their vision, but I never thought to have them use if as their company's tag line or in their marketing. By TC North on 2012 05 07
Great article(s),Joel. I've often been amazed at how un-inspiring some companies' brand/tag line is, particularly large corporations. Now I know why! Time to go to work and take a look at the why of my business. Thanks! By Bill Costain on 2012 05 07
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

ColoradoBiz TV

Loading the player ...

Featured Video