Three letters. One question. Limitless applications.
It can derail the loudest amongst us, make us question the realities of existence, and has the power to stop groupthink in its tracks. For instance, WHY do we insist on brands becoming society’s moral compass?
See? I rest my case.
It brings us back to earth with a bang. We’re made to explore realms of justification and face the realities we choose to ignore.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. And no, this isn’t a homage to Sinek’s work. If that’s what you’re expecting, then move on. This is about starting with ‘why?’ in a practical sense.
This isn’t about achieving a spiritual nirvana of self-discovery and awareness. ‘Why?’, is a powerful tool in our arsenal. Delivering better ideas. Better decisions. From business to personal.
The purpose of having a purpose, has lost its purpose. Fact.
We persist in having a contrived brand purpose, jumping on the bandwagon, just for the likes.
‘This is what our audience wants…’
‘Our community cares…’
Newsflash, they don’t. Tempt them with same-day delivery and heavy discount and watch this purpose-driven decision-making disappear quicker than a customer’s loyalty.
Don’t believe me? How many times have you used Amazon while simultaneously reading news stories about how they treat staff or that time they dumped unsold, perfectly usable products? Let’s hope their ‘Sustainability Manager’ doesn’t find out…
Moreover, people are smart. If your actions are not aligned with your words, it just pisses people off.
But I digress. And I’m not one to repeat previous rants.
This is about using ‘why?’ to support creating a purpose that actually works. One that matters, and shapes all that you do.
As Malnight, Buche and Dhanaraj (2019) outlined, having a purpose is more than a vision. It’s about why you exist and developing strategic principles that become your guide for making business decisions – enabling you to achieve this purpose.
Purpose ‘why?’ questions
WHY do we exist?
WHY do we do, what we do?
WHY do we do things this way?
WHY have we made this decision?
WHY are we not reviewing our antiquated processes?
WHY do we persist in leveraging every social trend?
WHY are our comms virtue signalling and we’re not paying our taxes?
WHY is our supply chain using child labour?
WHY do we treat our staff and customers like shit but preach unity and solidarity online?
Sorry. I got carried away again.
But you get the point.
‘Why?’, can help us to create and shape a purpose that should define our strategy and ALL operations.
OK. Let’s get back on track.
‘Why?’ can influence our strategy, and should influence our proposition and marketing. Even on a micro-level.
With brand, comes brand value. Fighting on price is a race to the bottom. The sweet spot is creating a proposition that is justified through the transaction required because the value is clear. Whether the rationale is logic or emotion-based. That’s the ‘why?’.
It makes us think about that next step. It makes us think about the proposition from the perspective of others.
For example, as cookie limitations and iOS 15 brings new challenges for marketing with tracking, the need to build a database that people are willingly signing up to, is critical. And if no one’s heard of you, that’s where the brand work comes in.
The proposition is everything. Build it accordingly. From all angles.
Proposition ‘why?’ questions
WHY is our product selling?
WHY are we not doubling down on our strengths?
WHY are we not investing in ‘x’?
WHY are we continuing to invest in something that isn’t working?
WHY are we pushing a product that isn’t selling?
WHY are we putting this on the website?
WHY would someone buy our product/service?
WHY would someone sign-up for our newsletter?
WHY would someone want to hear from us?
WHY would someone agree to give us their life story?
WHY would our customers want us to follow them online?
WHY are we posting this on social?
WHY do we persist in using TikTok?
WHY are we only focussing on Gen Z and Millennials?
Word of warning though, apply this context with caution. It makes people think. It will compromise your safety. Probably.
Sometimes, you just need to ask yourself, ‘why?’.
It makes us think. It guides us in our next steps, as part of self-reflection, or even enables us to determine the approach to get what we want. Personally, or professionally. ‘Why?’ enables us to put ourselves in their shoes before they’ve even said a word.
Personal ‘why?’ questions
WHY would they want to help me?
WHY would this person want to work with me?
WHY do I behave this way?
WHY should they give me a pay rise?
WHY am I doing what I’m doing?
WHY do I put up with this crap?
WHY am I not pursuing that opportunity?
WHY don’t I believe in myself?
WHY am I questioning myself?
WHY am I not doing something I enjoy?
Starting with ‘why?’ matters as it’s not about creating a contrived inner sense of purpose or refreshing a brand every five minutes based on what’s trending. It’s the fundamental starting point in navigating life and business. Answer ‘why?’, and the ‘how’ and ‘what’ becomes easier.
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See you next time.
Malnight T, Buche I, Dhanaraj C, 2019, ‘Put Purpose at the Core of Your Strategy’, Havard Business Review, September – October.
BBC News (2021) iOS 15: Apple continues privacy war with app tracker reports [online]: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-57392458
BBC News (2021) Google Chrome browser privacy plan investigated in UK [online]: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-55219750
ITV News (2021) Amazon destroying millions of items of unsold stock in one of its UK warehouses every year, ITV News investigation finds [online]: https://www.itv.com/news/2021-06-21/amazon-destroying-millions-of-items-of-unsold-stock-in-one-of-its-uk-warehouses-every-year-itv-news-investigation-finds
Apple (2021) Apple advances its privacy leadership with iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8 [online]: https://www.apple.com/uk/newsroom/2021/06/apple-advances-its-privacy-leadership-with-ios-15-ipados-15-macos-monterey-and-watchos-8/
BBC News (2021) Google tracking cookies ban delayed until 2023 [online]: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-57611701