Tuesday 2 cents – Two Questions: Why?

I’m no Simon Sinek, but in this week’s Tuesday 2¢ I suggest asking why and how doing this often will bring focus to your marketing.

In many organisations marketing works on a hamster wheel, there is a press release to be released, a product to be launched, a social media post to be posted and the harder we run the faster the wheel spins.

But, is all this activity actually moving the brand closer to the hearts and minds of the buyer? As marketing professor and writer Mark Ritson once wrote in Marketing Week :

We marketers are a frenetic bunch. We confuse business with success, and hours worked with impact.

In my experience, an important technique to avoid this hamster wheel is to ask “why” and to ask it often.

When a new idea, request, press release or suggestion gets tossed into the marketing department hamster wheel – ask the first why:

Why are we doing this?

For me the answer has to have one of three answers; it raises Awareness, Revenue or Trust. If this activity is not creating ART then why are you doing it? (You can read more about my ART approach here).

The reply needs to be clear and hopefully something you can test with data, not something vague like we are going to create a viral video and raise awareness. Uh..huh.. sure…

It might be that the first “why” takes you to the definitive ART reply, but if it doesn’t, ask another one, maybe using the Five Whys technique.

Here is a simple example, using one of my bugbears – press releases about partnerships:


Why are we sending this press release?

Because the partner manager wants us to announce the partnership

Why does the partner manager want us to announce the partnership?

It reflects well on the partner and the solution, will help them win business and we always do it for new partners

Why will this press release help them win business?

It creates credibility for the partner in deploying our solution and having more partners shows growth in the market

Why does this press release create credibility?

It contains a great quote from one of our executives and the partner about a fantastic project we did together

Why is this quote important?

Because it builds trust in our solution


A crude example, but you can see that the first answer provides a terrible reason for doing marketing, but this process then reveals that this press release ticks the ART boxes and we can summarize:

Why are we publishing this press release?
Because it will build revenue and trust.

But don’t stop once you’ve decided that the objective of this activity creates ART, it’s easy to view this inside-out, justify it based on our own internal needs and assume it will happen.

We need to think outside-in and consider the audience. So, the second “why” (or maybe 6th if we already asked 5) is:

Why will they care?

The “they” is of course the intended audience and it’s time to ask why on their behalf. You know why YOU want to do this, to raise awareness, revenue or trust, but is this has to be balanced with a strong reason why the audience will care.

Is this campaign, press release, blog post, tweet (whatever) framed in such way that it is of value to the audience?

Even though we asked the “5 Why’s” of our fictitious press release, it might be it fails at this point. Sure, there is a strong argument why the business and the partner might care about the press release, but why will the audience?

In the same way we define the goals for the business, (the ART model), we also need to understand needs and goals of our audience, the buyers and influencers. If this doesn’t meet their needs, they won’t care.

These goals could also be fine tuned to the communication medium, our example press release is not supposed to be the story. A press release is supposed to be the blue touch paper on the firework that is the story a journalist will write.

Our “why” then becomes more nuanced: Why will anyone care enough to write a story about this?

Sounds simple, maybe it’s hard to ask the question in your business, but it’s a whole lot easier if you have defendable goals (ART) and a clear understanding of the needs of your audience.

Asking these questions, resisting the hamster wheel, then becomes natural and valued by the broader business. After all, what’s not to love about a focused marketing team?

That’s my 2 cents for this Tuesday: Ask why.

If you would like to read more about defining personas, hop over to my company blog, where I explore this topic a little more.