Wednesday 2 February 2011

Why, oh why?

"I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who."
Rudyard Kipling, from "Just So Stories"

Whatever field you work in, as long as it involves information-gathering, you'll probably have come across some model, tool or principle based on Kipling's "honest serving men."

And it's not just journalism or police investigation that are well-served by these six honest men, but the world of brands and branding, too. One of the first positioning tools that I came across in my work with brands was something called the Brand Square. I still use it to this day.
It asks, very simply:
WHO are we?
WHAT do we do?
For WHOM do we do it?
HOW do we do it?

There's a very useful book and website by Simon Sinek for looking at brands and organisations which puts the serving man conspicuous by his absence from the Brand Square at the start: Start with Why. Here, it's argued that, unless you define your Why? - your purpose, cause or belief, you can't really go into the How? (guiding principles) or What? (tangible proof).

This is great thinking and something particularly relevant for brands that are an organisation. To have a reason for being beyond making profit gives a brand or organisation sustainable value.

But - a word of caution. In the same way that some brands are not naturals for social media (no, I don't want to enter into a relationship with toilet paper...) there are some brands where the Why for the brand should not be pushed or forced. If you end up constructing one of those Mission Statements that's all about "the relentless pursuit of quality solutions to passionately meet customer needs", maybe your time is better spent defining the more pragmatic issues - the Who? What? and How? clearly and uniquely.

No comments: