Gen Y Asks: When Did You Lose Your Why?

ego free media group, millennials, gen y

by John Graham

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” ~ Simon Sinek


When did you stop believing? You the CEO, when did you stop inspiring your employee’s to reach their maximum potential? You the employee, when did you realize that you no longer go to work to passionately execute the vision set forth by the founders of your company?  You the consumer, when did you stop buying products, goods, and services based on the brand message that spoke directly to your inner core?  When did you lose your “why?”

In January my wife and I sat down and wrote out our goals for the first quarter of 2015. One of them was to read 5 books. Since we share an Audible account we discussed which books we’d like to get that both of us could benefit from in our current professional journeys. I ended the quarter having listened to 7 books. One of those 7 eye opening titles has shown me the fundamental reason why a lot of companies are struggling to communicate authentically with their customers; especially millennials. It’s also shown me one of the most important elements that must be present for any success in marketing, business, and life in general. The book is “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek. Instead of a book review I’d rather share a brief illustration of what happens when a company and its employees lose sight of their why.


An executive at a major retailer asks me “How do we effectively reach millennial consumers with our products when our core customer is made up of primarily Boomers?” I told him the answer was simple. Authenticity over everything. I explained that we millennials see through disingenuous marketing efforts and are most loyal to brands that are able to speak to us in a human and relatable manner. He says “I want to conduct focus groups with millennials within the organization to determine their need state. We need to find out what they want that’s not being delivered in the marketplace today by any of our competitors.” It was at this point that I realized that he didn’t get it. Sitting a bunch of millennials in a conference room to ask us how best to get us to buy from a brand we don’t know about or identify with is the quickest way to get us not to buy from your brand. He was only looking for the cheat code to open up the millennial wallet and increase sales. He lost sight of the “Why.”

ego free media group, "the golden circle"

When you have a clearly defined “Why” you are able to show consumers what you believe and what your purpose for existence as
a company is. Most companies know what they do and how they do it very well. The same goes for employees. However, bothsinek quote
struggle to identify why they do what they do. This leads to executive leaders calling for a focus group to find out the need state of a target audience instead of first determining what it is that the company believes wholeheartedly and if that belief is shared by their target audience.

Determining the core essence of your brand is the north star for any marketing effort to attract new customers. If you have a clearly defined why then what you do and how you do it align to support your brand essence. The flip side to that is you end up coming off like the grandparent who tries to pick out “Hip” clothes for their 16 year old granddaughter. We all know how well that plays out. Here’s a perfect example of a brand that knows their “Why” and has been setting records with their campaign ads for beauty. Dove brand is the gold standard of emotional marketing based on their belief that women’s beauty begins inside and self confidence is the key to beauty.

At the end of the day selling based on features and benefits makes for a lot of one time customers. Customers who aren’t concerned with who you are or why you are, they just want the best price on a product they need now or could get from anywhere but your perceived value will suffice. Communicating your why relevantly is how you earn a loyal next gen customer. One that will post to their social accounts generously sharing their experience with your brand. A customer who will shout from the highest mountain top that they recommend your brand because it spoke to their soul. You’ll get the biggest brand advocates who’ll denounce your competitor because they are now part of the unofficial brand defense team and are prepared to defend it to the death… Well maybe not that deep, but you get what I’m saying. If Apple can have people camped out for days to spend nearly $1,000 on a phone, and Harley Davidson can get people to tattoo it’s logo on their bodies proudly, then I think you can see the power of a clearly defined “Why”.

Check out this amazing TED talk with Simon Sinek to learn more about the Golden Circle and the power of defining your “Why” as a brand.

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