Why vs. What

Sometimes I think marketers and consumer products companies get lost in what they are doing.  They lose their vision of the consumer and the reasons why people make purchases.  They focus on the “what” instead of the “why.”  What do I mean?  People don’t just buy things to have them – they buy them because they have a reason or a “why” to buy them.

I spent 10 years in the gifting business and we often made this mistake.  We got caught up in thinking we were selling flowers and gifts to people instead of selling to the emotion and the occasion that was the reason for the purchase.  People didn’t buy flowers just to send flowers – they bought flowers to send good wishes for a birthday or a holiday occasion.  They wanted someone they loved to know they were thinking of them.  They sent gifts to make someone else feel good or even to make themselves feel good for having been thoughtful.

Even in everyday purchases of soap, tooth paste or peanut butter; consumers are buying the items for their home with an underlying emotional intention.  They are trying to do their best to take care of themselves or others, and make the choice that fits their needs and their image of themselves. While features, price and functions play a role; so does ego and the desire to reinforce relationships.

This is true in corporate purchasing, particularly for items that carry a company’s logo.  Sales people and corporate staff buy items with their logo on them to build relationships with their employees or customers.  They are not buying pens, they are buying something that will form a reminder and a connection with another person.  An extension of themselves and their pride in the work they do and the companies they work for.

The bottom line – as a marketer and as a product innovator, start with the why and you will always end up with a better what and better sales.

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