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I recommend a book by Simon Sinek: “Start With Why.” It changed the way we advertise at TiVo. There’s also a TED Talk for folks with short attention spans:


Most companies know WHAT they do, and WHAT they sell. They may know HOW they do it, but very few know WHY. As an example, Simon explores how Apple could sell us everything from iPhones and iPads to iBlenders based on the simple notion that their WHY is “to challenge convention”.

So often in advertising, we don’t stop to think about why customers should care about us. We act like if only they knew about our 15 new features, they would surely buy our product. In fact, we reason, there could be no possible argument against buying it. But that’s where we get hung up on WHATs.

As Simon reminds us: “Customers don’t buy WHAT you do. They buy WHY you do it.”

Here are some recent campaigns with strong WHYs: Mini “Let’s Motor,” HP “Invent”, Levi’s “Go Forth”, Jet Blue “Happy Jetting”, VW “Drivers wanted,” and of course Nike “Just Do It”.

So if your client or company suggests advertising their new product with a list of WHATs, perhaps it’s time to Think Different.

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