The Answer Isn’t Engagement
What do marketers say are their biggest pain points? Proving ROI, having the best technology, discovering talent, producing engaging content, the list goes on. Although these challenges are inevitably goals that ride on the company’s success, it is not the end goal. What is the bigger picture, what are we all working towards whether we know it or not, and therefore, the KPI that will make a difference? Brand trust.
Developing brand trust is essential for a company to maintain long-lasting value. In order to do this, you’ll need to consider:
- How do prospects and customers view your brand?
- How do they view the people who represent your brand?
- What does your brand stand for?
- How do you make people feel?
Ronell Smith from Moz calls the ideal state “positive ubiquity,” where your brand or brand representative has developed a familiarity in the market and holds a positive association in all places, at all times and in all ways.
It is important to remind yourself that you do not own your brand, your customers do. It is a sub-total of all of their experiences they have with your business. So how can you build brand trust if you are not in control of the brand? From an execution standpoint, the principles of classical conditioning by Ivan Pavlov teach us that if you want your marketing messages to stick, the foundation should consist of three main elements: consistency, frequency and an emotional connection. The most important of these is the connection, or relationship you build between brand and consumer.
It is not by chance that companies are successful. There is a substantial difference between the people who make it and the people who don’t. In fact, Simon Sinek got to the root of this topic during his 2009 TED Talk The Golden Circle. Three layers define the circle: the what, the how and the why. This circle is the deepest layer of that emotional connection because it gives the customer something to hold onto, Simon calls this the why.
Every organization on the planet knows what they do. These are the products they sell or the services they provide.
Some organizations know how they do it. These are the things that make them special or set them apart from their competition. You may call this your value proposition or proprietary process.
Very few organizations know why they do what they do. This isn’t your ROI; it isn’t about money because that is a result. The why is a purpose, cause or belief. Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed every morning? Why should anyone care?
Source: Simon Sinek, Inc.
The majority of us think, act and communicate from the outside of the circle inward, from the clearest and easiest to the most vague and difficult thing to define, and many times stop before getting to the hardest part.
Biologically, the human brain is setup in a similar 3-part fashion, which is no coincidence. The outside neocortex corresponds with the what level, responsible for all of our rational and analytical thought and language. The middle two sections make up our limbic brains, responsible for our feelings as well as decision-making, but with no capacity for language. Therefore, when we communicate from the outside in, we are able to decipher complex information like features and statistics, but it doesn’t drive behavior. When we communicate from the inside out, we’re talking directly to the part of the brain that controls behavior and then from there you are able to rationalize with tangible things that we say and do. This is the basis of your gut and intuition.
A company can say, for instance, we sell the best camping tents in the business (the what), built with the strongest fabric that was hand-sewn in the U.S. (how), so you should buy a tent from us! But that is not inspiring. The secret to being a successful leader and/or company is working from the inside out. So what REI does, instead of telling you about their tent features, they launch a campaign called #OptOutside, where they close their doors on the holiest day of shopping, Black Friday, and instead of collecting tent profits, they pay their employees to get outside and explore.
Source: REI Opt Outside
The success of REI’s Opt Outside campaign is rooted in their clear understanding and communication of why they are in business. They don’t just so happen to make great camping gear. The recreational equipment retailer believes that being outside makes people’s lives better. And their products make being outside possible; the way they engineer 4-season tents to withstand fierce winds and substantial snow loads will keep you warm in the dead of winter so that you can mark something off your bucket list. Now that feels good.
If you simply reverse the order, you will realize that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. The goal is doing business with people who believe what you believe. People are not motivated by products, but by their beliefs. Therefore, what you do should simply prove what you believe. Those who start with why have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.
You may be thinking, what happens after why? Trust. Trust is not the end goal, but its maintenance is essential for success. Simon Sinek continues this conversation in his TED Talk called First Why and then trust. Technology is no help. In fact, it is creating a greater divide between defining the why and maintaining trust. While technology is superior at exchanging ideas, speedy transactions and finding people, it is not so great at creating human connections. You cannot form lasting trust through the Internet because nothing replaces human contact. Trust is human – human interactions, real conversations.
The power lays in leadership, not authority, in humanity, not money. We must deliver customer-driven, valuable experiences by cutting through the b.s. and thinking, acting and communicating from the why. In today’s world, your brand is whatever your customer says it is. The brand then becomes less of a business and more of an emotional relationship, where your job is now to engage your customer by building positive and meaningful brand associations with the consistent goal of brand trust.
Start With Why by Simon Sinek (2011)
First Why and then trust by Simon Sinek (2011)
8 of the Top Marketing Challenges Marketers Face (And Their Solutions) by HubSpot (2015)