One little word. One big difference

By Abigail Henderson, Strategist

I’d like to take us adults back to a little question we used to ask a lot as toddlers but seem to lose interest in as we mature. Bright-eyed and bushy tailed we’d ask anyone who would listen; “Why?”

What an innocent little question; just one little word. But put a few of them together and the innocence makes way for serious frustration for the trusted advisor faced with them. That sweet little toddler was never satisfied by one answer. It just inspired more thoughts, more ideas and more “Why’s”. Our quest to learn and fully understand this fascinating world was unyielding.

In the working world we’re less inclined to contemplate the reason for things. We accept ideas, thoughts or rules of thumb as true. Perhaps it’s because we feel like we graduated from requesting explanations when we left high school or university. Or because we trust that some smart business person thought it up so it’s got to be right. Right?

As Communication Strategists we get to be that inquisitive and frustrating toddler. We’re trained to challenge the facts and the reasons we’re offered. We challenge the status quo (preferably without becoming an eye-roll inducing sceptic) in a quest to uncover what matters most in human behaviour: Motivation.

Motivation is what moves people forward – sorry Standard Bank. Motivation is behind every decision and action we take whether in business, in marketing, in life or even in love.

How does one find the answer to “Why”? We must be bold enough to be brutally honest. Sugar coating be-gone! We need to clear out the fluff and clutter we’ve allowed to collect around our brands and get back to the root of the matter. Why are we doing what we’re doing? What motivates this? Here’s a raw example:

What motivates the business? Likely volume sales.
What motivates marketing? Probably product availability.
What motivates the communication? Hopefully cementing brand associations in the minds of consumers.
What motivates the medium? Reach.
What motivates the message? Usually a call-to-action.

Once we’ve got the “Why?” sorted out, the “What?” tends to follow almost effortlessly. When we understand why exactly we’re taking a certain direction we can consolidate a clear strategy. A clear strategy is a very powerful tool. A clear strategy is simple which makes it memorable. We call it the elevator pitch. A good strategy should be concise enough to be explained during an elevator ride. A clear strategy can streamline ROI, rally staff support, motivate bigger budgets, inspire enthralling creative work and win effectiveness awards.

How about giving “Why?” some love and attention. It may be frustrating but it’s sure to make your life a whole lot simpler in the long term.

Here’s one of my favourite examples of brutal honesty and a clear strategy. It’s the Dominos Turnaround campaign.