The Power of “Why”

I have 4 kids. Although grown now, I vividly remember what I’ll the “why” sessions. They went something like this: Me: “Get your coat on, we’re going to the store.” Child: “Why?” Me: “Because we need to get some groceries” Child: “Why?” Me: “Because we need food to live!” Child: “Why?” And on it went. What’s interesting is how many times the “why” questions, when asked repeatedly, ended up touching upon much deeper human issues, needs, wants, etc. If you are a marketer, you’ll immediately see where I’m going with this. Te importance of “why” in marketing cannot be overstated. I am innately curious about “why” and it’s part of why I enjoy what I do. I get to help people understand “why”.

Digital platforms and technologies have changed the playing field in marketing forever. What social media and an explosion of digital technologies and web-enabled devices has done is put control of the sales dialog squarely in the hands of consumer. This demands a massive shift toward customer-centric thinking. Despite these evolving platforms and changing landscape, however, marketing still boils down to understanding your consumers, listening to their “why” and meeting them with a well-though-out “because”. The good news is that the “why” is easier to measure in a digital world, for the people with the drive, patience, and know-how to look. The challenging news is that buyers’ journeys are also evolving, and growing increasingly complex.

Google did a study of one buyer’s digital journey as she bought a car. What they uncovered was over 900 digital transactions over the course of this consumer’s car shopping experience. This is a more complex buyer’s journey than many marketers are comfortable with. If we’re honest, we prefer simple 3 or 4 step models. Nice broad buckets are so much easier to plan campaigns around. And while we can (and should) create simpler models at times, I think the tension (borderline panic) we wrestle with when we consider a 900-step buyer’s journey is related to who owns the narrative and how much work we’ll have to do as marketers once we accept that reality. There will always be a place for simpler models. They are, in fact, necessary at times. But if we can move beyond the discomfort and all of the extra work associated with tracking, collecting, and analyzing large volumes of data, we uncover a huge opportunity to learn about our customers’ “why” each time they ask it. Once we do, with the right tools, we can focus on the “because” (the more familiar task of communicating brand value) at each of those points in time.