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Friday, April 29, 2011

Hey marketing, why should I care?


My son recently entered a particularly interesting new phase of life. He has decided that the standard response to everything that I ask him to do will now be "Why?" Go to bed – Why? Eat your dinner – Why? Clean up your toys – Why? And so it goes.

I've heard some parents describe this as the "the most terrible phase of life". As a parent I might agree. But as a marketing person, my two year old has taught me a valuable lesson (whilst simultaneously causing my hair loss to accelerate).

One of the needs of all people is simply a better understanding of Why?

The world of technology marketing however hasn't always understood this. If you think about it you can probably think of endless streams of marketing messages that answer a different question – How? More gigabytes, more megahertz, more bandwidth, less bandwidth, less megahertz, less gigabytes, or maybe even a patented algorithm… all this serves to tell and audience is How something works. If the joys of parenthood have taught me anything it's that nobody cares (or at least little boys) about How something works until they first understand Why it's important.

A simple example. If I was someone who had never driven a car, I wouldn't care about horsepower, in fact I probably wouldn't even understand what it was, I'd gotten where I need to go by walking and it was fine. To join the ranks of car owners I would need to first be educated on Why getting places faster would give me more time in the day, or Why owning a car could give me the freedom to go anywhere on my own schedule. I would need to first understand Why a car could help me, before I cared about about How it worked, or How one car was better than another car.

You might think that this behavior is exclusive to technology folks. But I've seen enough panty liner advertisements focusing on how much blue liquid can be absorbed to know that this behavior has less to do with technologist and simply more to do with marketers.

Understanding Why can educate and even inspire. Simon Sinek's golden circle describes this in a much more profound manner than I ever could and I encourage you to check it out. Sadly answering Why instead of How is difficult to do, but I think taking a step back to think about it is worthwhile for all marketers. I think my son would agree….

PS. You need to go to bed on time and finish your dinner to grow up big and strong.


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