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Why Are Some Brands Stronger Than Others?

Anchor Waves Newsletter, October 2013

Why Are Some Brands Stronger Than Others?

The answer starts with a question.

Brand Y

Simon Sinek’s 2009 book Start with Why contains some very powerful observations about leadership. He analyzed a number of successful companies and their management teams in order to find common elements in their success stories. He looked closely at Steve Jobs and Apple, Herb Kelleher and Southwest Airlines and even Sam Walton and Walmart.

What Sinek discovered was fascinating: Inspirational leaders seemed to approach business from the opposite direction than most of their less successful peers. For example, Sinek posited that Steve Jobs, cofounder and spiritual leader at Apple until his death in 2011, did not believe that his company made technology. Instead, Jobs believed that Apple sold empowerment for individuals – lifestyle products that make a statement about their users (“Think Different”) while challenging the status quo.

Unlike most businesses that define themselves by starting with “what” (we build computers), then add “how” (we build quality computers) and all end with the same “why” (we build quality computers in order to make money), Jobs put his unique “why” at the center of his ideas and moved outward. He started with “why” (to provide empowerment for individuals), which guided his “how” (through innovative products that give power and control to the average person) and finally his “what” (a computer that anyone can understand, an MP3 player that puts all your music in one place, a phone that makes technology easy to use).

“Starting with why” didn’t just sell Apple products; it resulted in the world’s most powerful brand. Think about it. Has there ever been a company the size of Apple with such a unique and identifiable personality in each of its products? There is a tangible “Apple-ness” to everything the company sells. That brand-building wasn’t an accident. Apple’s marketing team followed Jobs’s “why” just as much as the research and development department did.

How What Why Graphic - Golden Circle

If you were asked what your company makes or sells, how would you respond? Would you begin with “what” (loans, pipe, fertilizer) or “how” (inexpensive, premium, fast, guaranteed)? Or would you start with “why?” If you’re not quite sure how to answer this question, it’s time to give it some thought. Strong brands start with a strong “why” at their core. Once you and your management team agree on your “why,” spread it to the rest of your company. Start everything you do with it – especially your marketing.

A message such as “We’re your one-stop shop,” is based on “what” (a huge selection) rather than “why.” A message that says “Everything you need, or we’ll help you find it someplace else” is similar but starts with “why” (to become the “answer place” for our clients). The first message sounds generic and ill-defined. The second inspires confidence.

When Sam Walton passed away, Walmart’s new management team started to focus on “what” and “how.” When growth became the company’s only priority, even the working-class customers who formed the foundation of Sam Walton’s “why” began to feel left out. Ironically, the resulting problems with service led to slower growth. Similarly, even Apple’s strongest proponents aren’t quite sure what to make of the company’s “business-as-usual” approach to new products now that the influence of Steve Jobs is beginning to wane. Staying focused on “why” isn’t always easy when you have a business to run.

Anchor Marketing can help. Not only can we help you to define the “why” of your company, we can ensure that it is the basis for all of your communication, from your online presence to your marketing messages to your one-on-one sales techniques. Let us prove it to you. Send us an email or give us a call, and we can get started today.

Brain Diagram

It’s All In Your Head

In his book Start with Why, Simon Sinek describes what he calls the Golden Circle. It is a manifestation of how it looks to keep your “why” at the center of your decision-making process, with “how” and “what” on the way outward as we communicate to others. He compares this concept to a rough sketch of the human brain, where newer neocortex components surround the more primitive limbic core. While this limbic core provides us with emotions and decision making, it is incapable of speech. Those functions come from the surrounding neocortex.

We fall in love at the core of our limbic brain, then put that feeling into words using our neocortex. It makes sense, then, to appeal to the decision-making part of the human mind, where “gut reactions” are born. Starting with why doesn’t just make an impression, it makes a connection – something more powerful than product feature lists or me-too sloganeering (for all your ___ needs).

Awards Season

Awards Season

Recently, Anchor Marketing made a splash at two national award ceremonies. We helped DSG (Dakota Supply Group) take home trophies for outstanding marketing at both the National Association of Electrical Distributor’s (NAED) TED Awards in Chicago, Illinois, and WIT & Co.’s WHAM! Awards in Charleston, South Carolina.

DSG was honored with three 2013 Best of the Best awards from NAED’s TED Magazine. Anchor helped DSG to earn two of those awards, one in the Digital/Social Media Campaign category for its “Contractor Portal” web-based application, and the other in the Public Relations category for its “Married To The Brand” video and presentations.

WIT & Co. is a member-owned organization consisting of independent plumbing, heating and cooling distributors from around the United States. During its annual WHAM! Awards for marketing excellence, DSG took home the top prize, with two-thirds of the award focused on Anchor-related projects: the Contractor Portal web-based application and Connections magazine.

Congratulations to DSG! We were glad to be of help.