In the book that Nick Rosener and I are writing, Shout in the Right Direction, we discuss the core of every business or brand: WHY. Every business or brand has to answer the riddle of “why do we do the things we do?” For most, it is because of money. For some, it is because of passion. For a few, it is because they want to make a difference. I see these three as an adaptation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

The most basic need for a business or brand is of course, money. It’s what fuels everything to create and deliver value to customers. Enough is needed to sustain the business, pay people and grow. But when money is in vast supply, it just becomes a scoreboard.  At this point, it is politically correct to refer to this as being “stupid rich” and we all know that there is more to life than money.

Example: Exxon Mobile

Passion is the next level. Passion is the backbone of any great business or brand. It is what makes a business or brand unique, different and memorable. The passion for what they do and believe in enhances their products or services. To reach this level, however, you do not necessarily need a comfortable level of revenue. What is unique about passion is that it often drives the basic need for money.

Example: Apple

Making a difference is the final level. This is where a brand or business becomes nearly immortalized. It accepts a higher purpose by recognizing that it needs to do more than create value for consumers. It’s not simply opening up a philanthropic effort and throwing millions in it to get tax breaks. People can smell bullshit a mile away when they hear about a business or brand “contributing to the community” or “giving back to what matters most.” The businesses and brands that make it to this level care deeply in customer satisfaction and do it for more than creating long-term loyalty.

Example: Virgin Group (have a better suggestion?)

Bare with me that I had to generalize significantly to fit my thoughts in this tiny post. You might not get it right away, but just think about the meaning behind the “why” of marketing.

(Pause)

(Pause)

(Keep thinking about it, you might get it)

Good, you got it! Right? Well if you don’t get it, here is a hint: the why is not the value proposition. It is more central and personal than that. By defining why, purpose is created. Purpose has meaning, and meaning gives life to the brand or business. The why of marketing is the reason for everything a business or brand does. The better answered why, the better the business or brand.

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