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The Importance Of ‘Why’ In Brand Storytelling

Posted By Darragh Rea, Edelman, Friday 15 January 2016


Whilst doing some research this summer I was struck by how much of marketing had got lost in an abyss of bland content. It appeared to me that in a race to embrace shiny new platforms – which would supposedly create deeper connections – the industry had lost sight of what really matters. The results in many cases were not deeper connections but instead temporary interactions, fleeting in nature, and almost certainly not memorable.

It caused me to remember a TED talk came across a number of years back by Simon Sinek in which he outlined a model for inspirational leadership. The basic essence of what he proposed was that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. He went on to highlight how the reason why Martin Luther King and the Wright Brothers were so inspirational and so deeply connected with their audiences was that they focused first on communicating why they did what they did, rather than starting (as most brands do) with the what.

Brands need to get back to their core story, and in doing so ask themselves three simple questions:

  • Why do you do what you do?
  • How are you different?
  • Why do you matter?

By answering these questions brands can begin to refocus on their story and most importantly how it relates to their core audience. In a world where technology has unlocked so many opportunities for brands to communicate with and learn from their consumers, it seems incomprehensible that instead of communicating what really matters to them some brands are focusing on bland product messages pushed out across a myriad of platforms where their audience may or may not be listening.

At Edelman, we work with many clients who understand the importance of purpose in marketing. An excellent example from Dublin is that of the Irish National Lottery, whose answer to Why is perfectly simple – they do it to raise money for good causes. Indeed, since its foundation in 1986 the Irish National Lottery has contributed over €4.5 billion in funding to help causes across Ireland. With thanks to all the players along the way, they have made and continue to make a significant positive impact on Irish society.

To help tell this story in a more meaningful manner, the Irish National Lottery put the spotlight on the good causes and showcased the life-changing impact they have on the people they serve. The resulting eight short videos (one of which has since featured as a TV ad) are the very essence of why the National Lottery exists and are a compelling reinforcement of how important it is for brands to focus on the why rather than the what.

This article was written by Darragh Rea, Head of Digital at Edelman Ireland, and originally appeared on Edelman Ireland Magazine. You can follow Darragh on Twitter here: @darraghjrea


Edelman is a leading global communications marketing firm helping business and organisations evolve, promote and protect their brands and reputations. We are independent which allows us the freedom to be constantly curious and deliver original thinking. In Ireland, we are a team of brand, reputation, research and digital strategists who drive award-winning creative communication programmes. We have deep expertise in consumer trends, research, analytics and insights, corporate reputation, health, technology, crisis and government affairs.

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