‘It’s not what people buy: It’s why they buy it’

“It’s not what people buy. It’s why they buy it”; a notion that has become something of a maxim in the Kalexiko HQ. Across all industries the successful figures, companies; the leaders of industry have all found success doing the same single thing: selling a belief and not a product.


Those of you familiar with Simon Sinek’s TED talk: ‘How great leaders inspire action’ will be familiar with the phrase already. For those of you that haven’t then I really recommend taking a look as this article draws heavily on the influence I obtained from watching it. ‘How do you explain when others are able to achieve things that defy all assumptions?’.


This is the question that is posed by Sinek at the beginning of his talk, and when you really think about it, how do you explain it? Instantly as this question struck me I thought back to September last year when I saw the crowds gathering outside Birmingham’s Bullring Apple shop as it heralded the release of the iPhone 5.


I thought to myself about the absurdity of the situation; ‘Ok iPhone 5, it is a big deal I suppose’, but surely most of the faces gathered on that cold autumn morning would no doubt open the box, boot up the device and then spend a few days working out that it was almost exactly the same as its predecessor and then feel…disappointed.


The situation became even more absurd to me when I also agreed to myself that most of those people will no doubt be part of the same early morning line for the next iPhone.


So, why?

“Why” is the big question that stayed with me about the situation; I love gadgets, I mean who doesn’t really? The Luddites are a thing of the past and as far as I can see as a society we love our smart phones, tablets, laptops, electric tin opener-speaker system etc. Although, how do Apple continuously do it? Despite the knocks that every iPhone, iPad, ‘iThingy’ receives they still somehow pull in the crowds every single time they release a new product.


This led me to think back to Sinek’s talk and it seemed he asked himself the same questions;


‘Why is Apple so innovative’ Year after year, after year, after year, they’re more innovative than all their competition. And yet, they’re just another computer company. They’re just like everyone else. They have the same access to the same talent, the same agencies, the same consultants, the same media. Then why is it that they seem to have something different?

That sounds awfully simple doesn’t it? You just create a brand ethos that appeals to the masses and you’re a success right? Well it isn’t quite as simple as that. In Sinek’s talk, he explains ‘probably the worlds simplest idea’: the Magic Circle. Sinek’s idea is that the key to being successful is the way you market your product using the Magic Circle.


Most companies will market themselves working from the outer circle into the middle;

  • What they are offering
  • How it fulfills its purpose
  • Then the big question; why?

According to Sinek, this is the slip-up of most companies, his interpretation of Apple marketing communication in this method went like this;


“We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. Want to buy one?”


Sounds very dull doesn’t it? On the other hand, Sinek’s interpretation of the same thing but approached in the opposite way sounds much better;


“Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”


By this simple method Apple have become the huge organisation that they are today. Sinek believes that the power behind this process is that it has a biological connection to the brain.


The science behind it

This next bit could get a bit confusing, so I have broken it down;

  • Our brains are divided into three parts (outer to inner); our newest brain, our Homo sapien and our Neocortex.
  • Our neocortex is responsible for our rational thought and the middle two sections make up our limbic brain which is responsible for feelings; like trust and loyalty and all decision making, though it has no capacity for language.
  • So you see the brain and the magic circle work identically. Companies that communicate from the outside to the inside pump the brain full of stats and information, which may be beneficial but it won’t drive emotion- i.e gaining a sale.
  • On the other hand companies that communicate from the inside out talk directly to the part of the brain that controls human behaviour.
  • Companies that communicate why they are selling a product form a link directly to their audience’s limbic system triggering an emotional connection as opposed to cold statistics explaining the benefits of their product.


By communicating why you offer a product or service as opposed to what you offer, you immediately form a connection to consumers who think the same as you do. Pouring a mind full of facts and stats is cold and boring, but by reaching into the emotions of your consumers you answer their needs merely through believing in what you are doing.


‘The law of diffusion of innovation’


Due to something that Sinek calls ‘the law of diffusion of innovation’, if you want to reach to reach those customers who believe as you do, the success lies in operating from ‘why’ to ‘what’. According to Sinek;


‘The first two and a half percent of our population are our innovators. The next 13 and a half percent of our population are our early adopters. The next 34 percent are your early majority, your late majority and your laggards. The only reason these people buy touch tone phones is because you can’t buy rotary phones anymore.’


By targeting the innovators (those that buy ‘why’ you make a project), the knock on effect of securing them will lead to the early adopters having influenced interest in your product; the early adopters are those who are comfortable making decisions based on facts but less on emotional impulse. This continues to influence the late majority who eventually catch on and the laggards will unwillingly submit when they have to.


So those people who waited outside the Apple shop to be the first to get the iPhone 5 where the innovators, the ones that buy Apple because they believe in the Apple why the Apple brand create their products.


Science aside, the question still remains; ‘why’?

So, putting all the science behind it is true”it’s not about what people buy, it is why they buy it. By communicating the reasons “why” at the core of your marketing communication you reach out to those who believe as you do. By believing in the ‘why’ behind your brand you are also answering the calling of those who feel the same.


This is something we see a lot in the world of web design. There’s a reason why Facebook and Twitter are more successful than other social media websites, and that is the fact that they genuinely believe in what they are doing. Mark Zuckerburg said, ‘The thing that we are trying to do at facebook, is just help people connect and communicate more efficiently’ and because he genuinely believes in this cause he has created Facebook; possibly the most ‘efficient’ tool for communicating.


It’s the same in web design. There are many agencies out there jumping onto the digital marketing revolution and churning out low-quality, quickly manufactured sites that really don’t do the client justice or provide anything for a user.


At Kalexiko we believe in creating websites that not only provide a user with an fun and engaging experience, but also implement all the newest technology that we can. This is our way of fulfilling one of our ‘whys’ and that is to keep progressing the possibilities of the digital world, to keep pushing boundaries to make sure that websites never become dull and unengaging. That’s our ‘why’.


To find those innovators out there who believe in what you believe there are a few questions that Sinek says you should ask yourself about your company;


By “why,” I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organisation exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?


When you can answer these, then you have found out your ‘why’.