Yeah … but why?

If Reality TV singing shows have taught us anything, it’s that the singing part of the show is so secondary, it nearly becomes irrelevant. People just want that juicy backstory. A performer might sing like the love-child of Aretha Franklin and Robert Plant, but without some tragedy they overcame to get there, they best pass the mic and return to obscurity.

I’ve found it’s pretty much the same when you’re selling products or services to people. Cause in ‘reality’ that’s pretty much what these TV Shows are doing too - they’re finding someone they can sell to an audience. They need a story for the viewer to attach to or identify with - the singing competition is just the medium they’re delivering it through.

In a now famous TED talk* from Simon Sinek he proposes that people don’t buy ‘what’ you do, they buy ‘why’ you do it. Sinek proposes that most businesses focus on telling people ‘what’ they do in order to get sales, ie,

“We make beautifully crafted leather wallets that carry your essential cards and cash.”

Instead of conveying ‘why’ they exist and ‘why’ they matter ie,

“We believe in keeping things simple. By simplifying the small things you create space to enjoy the big things in life - to stay in the moments that matter and find the good times. That’s why we created our Standard slimline wallet.”

The big difference being, if people believe in your ‘why’ then purchasing the ‘what’ is an easy and quick decision for them. As much as we think we’re measured and rational people, we purchase with emotion**, based on how it will make us feel or whether it will enhance/reinforce a belief we have about ourselves. (Check out Mark Manson’s thoughts on how ‘We can’t trust ourselves’).

We’ve all got a story about something we “totally needed” and justified it based on that belief. (Unfortunately, my story involves Roller Blades).

Initially, when I launched my first Bare Bones wallet, I focussed on how unique my product was - the leather I used, Australian made by hand etc. These things mattered to me. I’d laboured over the design and worked hard with the manufacturer on the details. Some people connected with it immediately, but I got a lot more negative feedback online - mainly based around the price. “What idiot would I spend $97 on this?! It’s just two bits of leather. I can get one exactly the same on Amazon for a quarter of the price!” and “This wallet is so small I could hardly fit anything in it! It needs to be at least seven times the size!” You know, standard polite and constructive internet feedback.


When I started focussing more on ‘why’ Bare Bones existed, the reactions started to change. Customers commented that they “loved what you are about” and were “excited to try and simplify!”. Others told me that they found Bare Bones “inspirational” and that their new watch made them feel “empowered”. (these are all actual quotes). My products didn’t change - but my message did and people reacted to it emotionally in their own way.

To me, this is what ‘building a brand’ is all about - it’s repeatedly conveying ‘why’ you exist. It’s telling your story, and finding the people who identify and want to be a part of it. Those that do become your customers and will be loyal to your brand, coming back time and again to support you. All because they believe in the same things that your brand does.

Right now, amongst this pandemic with all the social isolation, businesses forced to close up and so much uncertainty, it’s exceptionally hard to know what to do. (I’ve had myself a few ‘moments’ … alright, many). As I thought through this article, I figured it might be helpful to think about ‘why’ I do what I do. Because when the dust settles (or the sneezes dry up?) and we start to rebuild, the actual products and services we offer might seem trivial. But remembering ‘why I do this’ might help me get things back on the right track. If you believe in ‘why’ your business matters, it makes it a whole lot easier for others to see why too.

So … ‘why’?

* That’s my first TED talk reference for those playing along at home
** Even in these crazy and uncertain times, we can see from the Toilet Paper frenzy that buying decisions are based not on data or rational information, but on emotion (whether that be fear or a belief that they are doing what they need to for their family).
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