If you spend any time scrolling through LinkedIn (yuck, I know), you’ll likely encounter some wisdom cooked up by Simon Sinek.
Sinek’s most famous quote, and the big idea of his “Start with Why” book, has become ubiquitous with brand strategy:
“People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”
People often leave it at that. But you’re doing the quote a disservice without adding the line that follows:
“And what you do simply proves what you believe.”
Let’s put them together:
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”
That “proving what you believe” part is really important…
It implies that you actually stand for something. It means your brand is purpose-driven and that purpose splashes cold water on the face of you and your team every morning, calling you to action.
While I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of “Starting With Why” when building a brand, I think a lot of people get it wrong.
Here’s what it does NOT mean:
Trying to invent a BS “brand story” to lure customers and make you a boatload of money – a story you ultimately don’t give a damn about.
That’s not a “why,” it’s a lie, and eventually, it’s gonna come back and bite you in the ass.
People see through insincerity. You might have an amazing “why-lie” that helps you find traction, but eventually, the facade will crack, and people will know that your business never existed to serve purpose over profit. That might make them mad…
That, or you’ll get bored with your brand because you never really cared about anything other than making money.
So when you Start With Why, make sure you’re really uncovering a Why that’s meaningful to you – something that gets you excited about building your brand every day.
Otherwise, go back to the drawing board and think about what really matters. It might inspire some really innovative thinking around your business.