In the movie Amistad, Theodore Joadson is a defense lawyer representing illegally purchased slaves who are accused of mutiny and murder after causing an uprising on the ship that was bringing them from Africa to Cuba. Public opinion was against the kidnapped slaves, so Joadson asks an elderly John Quincy Adams for help. Adams asks Joadson, “What’s their story?” Joadson starts telling Adams that the group of men is from West Africa, when Adams interrupts, saying, “No … what is their story? You know what they are, but what you don’t know—and from what I can tell, haven’t bothered in the least to discover—is who they are.”

Advertise Your Story, Not Your Product

Most websites tell visitors what they do, leaving out the most interesting part: why do they do what they do? What’s their story? You know what Amazon and Google do, but do you know why they do it? It’s not to make money. That’s a result of why they do what they do.

If you own a business, what does your website say about your company? Do you present visitors with a laundry list of what you sell and what services you provide, or do you pull visitors in with a compelling narrative … a good story?

What is The Golden Circle

In 2009, at a TEDx Talk in Puget Sound, author, motivational speaker, and organizational consultant Simon Sinek told the world something they probably knew, but never realized: everyone loves a good story. Sinek presented the idea of the Golden Circle, which looks like this:

golden circle

The Golden Circle is like a target and businesses should aim for the middle when talking to customers.

  • Why – What is your company’s purpose or cause? What does your company believe?
  • How– What process or specific actions has your company taken to realize the “Why”?
  • What – What do you do? Your “What” should equal your “Why” plus your “How.”

Marketing That Starts With Why

As a business, it’s crucial you communicate your motivation, your reason for existence—your why. Many websites become so preoccupied with selling, they fail to draw customers into a relationship by sharing the story of what drives their passion.

Most websites have an About page. What does your About page say? Is it a laundry list of facts, such as the year your company started, the people who started it, your rate of growth over the last five years, and the awards your company has won? Your history is not your story. Your story starts with Why. What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief?

A non-profit organization, Integrative Touch for Kids, does an excellent job of portraying the why of its story on the About page of its website.

Look at how most companies advertise. Most companies tell you what they make, then tell you how their product is better than their competition’s products. And for most companies, that’s all you know about them.

Apple: A Golden Circle Marketing Strategy

Simon Sinek uses Apple as an example of a company that tells its story and pulls you in without ever trying very hard to sell you a product. And yet, Apple has a large and loyal following and has been extraordinarily successful in everything it sells: computers, phones, tablets, mp3 players, and wearable tech. Apple’s success is rooted in its story.

Sinek says, “If Apple were like everyone else, their marketing message would be, ‘We make computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. Wanna buy one?’ That’s how most marketing is done.” Most companies start on the outside of the circle and work their way in, never reaching the center.

Sinek says Apple’s approach is just the opposite, saying Apple’s message is, “In everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Wanna buy one?”

Because Apple embeds its story in your head before mentioning its product, you could substitute “great computers” in the previous sentence, with “great phones” or “great tablets.” It really doesn’t matter because you’re not buying the product—you’re buying the story.

According to Sinek, the goal isn’t to do business with everybody who needs what you have; the goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe. Consequently, Apple—a computer company—sells phones, mp3 players, and watches to a broad audience which shares Apple’s beliefs.

Marketing to the Limbic Brain

Sinek says this type of loyalty can be explained in biological terms. He says the human brain is divided into sections that correlate with the Golden Circle. The newest, homo sapien part of the brain, the neocortex, corresponds to the “what” level. The neocortex is responsible for rational, analytical thought and language.

The part of our brains responsible for our feelings and trust and loyalty is the limbic system. It’s the part of our brain that also makes decisions. It has no capacity for language and it corresponds to the “how” and “why” sections of the Golden Circle.

As a marketer, if you start on the outside of the circle—the “what”—you can give customers all the facts about your product, but you won’t get past the neocortex, to the decision-making, emotional limbic part of the brain.

If, however, you appeal to customers starting with the “why,” you immediately touch the emotional, decision-making limbic part of the brain. After you’re engrained in the limbic system, you can appeal to the neocortex and tell customers what you do.

The key, of course, is that you must know why you do what you do to be able to communicate it to others. Once you identify and can verbalize the “why” for your company, your “why” should drive your content marketing. Be consistent and authentic. Don’t sell your product. Tell your story clearly and concisely, and remember you’re not trying to appeal to everyone. You’re marketing to people who believe what you believe.

Uncertain about how to include your “why” in your marketing? We can help! Let our professional team of marketing experts tell your story. Contact us today.