The Golden Circle – Focusing on the ‘Why’ in your communications

Google dethroned tech darling Apple on the 2014 BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brand ranking released days ago. The departure of their charismatic leader, business choke-ups and perceived lack of innovation in recent times likely played a part in Apple’s gradual decline – but few will disagree that Apple is still one of the most important and trend-setting companies in the world.

This news reminded me of a spellbinding TED talk by business guru Simon Sinek and his concept of “The Golden Circle”. While no brand remains at the top forever, Apple is the perfect example of a business that has exceled by functioning differently. Sinek related a simple truth – the most successful brands in the world live by “The Golden Circle”. It’s a simple shift in thinking towards your business approach, but will completely change how your business communicates.


The Golden Circle is divided into three parts – what, how and why. Every business knows ‘what’ they’re selling, some know ‘how’ they do it and their USP, while few think about and communicate the ‘why’, essentially the purpose of their business.

Most businesses communicate outside in. They tell people what they’re selling, how the product works and what’s special about it, but few touch on the core purpose of their business with each product. Here’s Sinek’s revelation – truly visionary brands, like Apple, communicate from the inside out. Every communication opportunity highlights why they’re doing what they do. Apple is about innovation – creating user-friendly products that make people’s lives better. The iPhone, iMac, iPad and all their products are a result of their core purpose. This is what makes people coming back for more. They believe in the company’s vision and transform into loyal brand evangelists.

Just think about the behemoth brands – Nike hasn’t found success merely selling running shoes. ‘Just do it’ is what we can relate to. The sense that it’s time we got started, time we pushed ourselves to our limits, and the innate ability we all have to succeed if we just try. Tech giant Google is so much more than the world’s number one search engine. They want to impact how the world collects and perceives information at every level.

But this isn’t all marketing hogwash, and Sinek delves into the science behind his theory. When brands communicate leading with the ‘why’, they speak directly to the limbic system, the part of the brain that affects behaviour and accounts for our gut feeling. This influences purchasing decisions more than appealing to the rational of our brain, achieved when brands communicate the ‘what’ of products and services to consumers.

Not too long ago, I had a chat with our fearless Mutant chief, Joe Barratt, about why he started Mutant Communications. While I’m sure our team wouldn’t mind a little fame and fortune, Joe spoke about his passion for helping businesses grow, be it startups trying to find their footing or established businesses hoping to grow their presence, and that’s really what forms the basis of Mutant’s work and why we do what we do. How do we do it? We tell great stories that build winning brands. What do we do exactly? We create content and help brands communicate across different outlets and media platforms to get the word out.

So is your company telling a story framed around the ‘why’? Do your customers understand and subscribe to the same beliefs that drive your business? Have you been affecting purchasing decisions with communications that spell the purpose of your business, or have you been repeating the ‘what’, like most other businesses?

There are likely a number of companies out there that sell similar products and provide similar services, a few that define themselves with a USP akin to yours, but not many with visionary business beliefs, and who communicate that well.

Now is a great time to review how you’ve been narrating your brand story and your approach to every communications decision, starting with the ‘why’.

For ideas on how you can communicate the ‘why’ in your business, get in touch with us at [email protected].

Why? image by BuzzFarmers is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Screen capture of Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, How great leaders inspire great action