The G-spot of advertising

Why do you do what you do? Why do you get up in the morning? And why should anyone care? In his awesome TEDx talk of 2009, Simon Sinek told us all about ‘The Golden Circle’. His little speech on ‘How great leaders inspire’ just hit 22 million views and is still going strong. If you’ve never seen it, please take 18 minutes to slobber on one of the most popular  TED talks ever . It’s worth it. Afterwards, let me tell you how this beautiful idea is being gang raped on a daily basis.

[If you know what Simon says, go ahead and skip this paragraph]
In a nutshell, Simon says: always start with telling people WHY you do what you do. Then HOW you do what you do. And lastly WHAT it is that you do. Always start with WHY. That’s your passion. It’s what you believe. Your determination inspires others. If they believe what you believe, they will follow you and make your cause their own. In short: people don’t buy WHAT you do. They buy WHY you do it.

The problem is, everyone – and their mother – have seen this little speech, or read the book ‘Start With Why.’ And now, everyone is trying to find their ‘Why.’ It’s like the G-spot of advertising. And indeed, identifying a WHY can be very useful. It represents the essence of your company. The soul of your brand. I have been helping people articulate their WHY for a couple of years now. It’s a very pleasant and rewarding thing to do. It involves speaking in depth and often on a very personal level to passionate entrepreneurs and inspiring business owners. I never gave it much thought. What’s the harm in helping others find their purpose, right?

“The client asked four different ‘external experts’ to fill them in on what their most personal motivation should be”

A couple of weeks ago, we received a pitch briefing from a client. In the brief the client asked us to ‘come up with a suitable WHY and explain how to use it.’ The agency that could articulate the most inspiring and resonating ‘WHY’ would win the pitch. Wait. What? Basically, this client asked us to tell them what their innermost beliefs should be. They asked four different ‘external experts’ to fill them in on what their most personal motivation should be. No interviews. No personal backgrounds. Just a nice, juicy WHY to build all future communication on. You know, just something a lot of people could get behind. Something inspiring. Anything. As long as people would swallow it.

How can you ask someone else to come up with your own core motivation? Your passion? Your beliefs? That’s the whole point. They’re yours . Not knowing what you believe – to me – means the immediate bankruptcy of your brand. No one else can tell you what you believe. It’s not some trick.

But of course, it  is  a trick. A trick that many agencies use to service their clients effectively. Apparently, this is the new WHY:


Personally, I think that sucks balls. On the bright side: this will be the shortest pitch presentation ever. #yolo.


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Maarten Boer