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Start with Why: Creating a value proposition with the Golden Circle model

By Dave Chaffey 15 Oct, 2015
Essential
Online value proposition

Simon Sinek explains how to truly differentiate a brand when most fail

Leadership expert Simon Sinek is perhaps best known for giving one of the most popular TED talks of all time, which you can view at the end of this post. Its focus is on how leaders can inspire cooperation, trust and change in a business based on his research into how the most successful organisations think, act and communicate.

I think that marketers will find most value in his Golden Circle model which helps give focus to how a business can stand out from similar competitors by communicating its differences. I was prompted to check it out after a recent workshop when discussing the importance of developing strong online value propositions as part of a digital marketing strategy. One of the attendees working in B2B healthcare explained how they had used it with their agency to develop a more distinctive proposition for their brand amongst similar service providers.

The Golden Circle

Simon Sinek explains how to truly differentiate a brand when most fail

Sinek is the author of several books on the topic of leadership. These include 'Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action' which first popularised his now-famous Golden Circle concept. You can read more about this model and his background on Start With Why.

Sinek's Golden Circle idea is an attempt to explain why some people and organisations are particularly able to inspire others and differentiate themselves successfully. The neuroscience behind the Golden Circle idea is that humans respond best when messages communicate with those parts of their brain that control emotions, behaviour and decision-making.

Why

Sinek explains that 'Why' is probably the most important message that an organisation or individual can communicate as this is what inspires others to action. 'Why' is how you explain your purpose and the reason you exist and behave as you do. Sinek's theory is that successfully communicating the passion behind the 'Why' is a way to communicate with the listener's limbic brain. This is the part of our anatomy that processes feelings such as trust and loyalty - as well as decision-making.

Successfully articulating your 'Why' is a very impactful way to communicate with other humans, define your particular value proposition and inspire them to act. Sinek's theory is that communicating 'Why' taps into the part of the listener's brain that influences behavior. This is why the Golden Circle is considered such an influential theory of leadership. At organisational level, communicating your 'Why' is the basis of a strong value proposition that will differentiate your brand from others. He gives the example of Apple in video clip at the end of this article.

How

The organisation's 'How' factors might include their strengths or values that they feel differentiate themselves from the competition. Sinek's view is that 'How' messaging is also able to communicate with the limbic brain - the important part that governs behaviour and emotion. But his opinion is that organisations would do better to improve how they articulate their 'Why', in addition to 'How'.

What

It's fairly easy for any leader or organisation to articulate 'What' they do. This can be expressed as the products a company sells or the services it offers. For an individual it would be their job title. Sinek argues that 'What' messaging only engages with the neocortex - the part of our brain that's rational. His argument is that this part of the brain is less of a driver of decision making than the limbic brain: the part that 'Why' and 'How' reaches better. Successful people and organisations express why they do what they do rather than focusing on what they do.

Some critics argue that Sinek's model is actually just reflecting passion. Passionate leaders and passionate organisations express their commitment and enthusiasm authentically, and this is what inspires others rather than the manner in which they express themselves. Other critics argue that Sinek's model implies humans don't use their reason at all when making decisions, which is debatable.

Find out more about Sinek's Golden Circle theory by watching his talk at TED:

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of Smart Insights. Dave is editor of the 100+ templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ Digital Marketing experts. Our resources are used by our Premium members in more than 100 countries to Plan, Manage and Optimize their digital marketing. Free members can access our sample templates here. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question. For my full profile and other social networks, see the Dave Chaffey profile page on Smart Insights. Dave is a keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing.

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