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The ‘why’ revolution: Why “what” got overthrown

Just because no one said “let them eat cake” doesn’t mean there isn’t a revolution. There is. Like most revolutions, it’s been an evolution that all of a sudden seems to have taken off. Nevertheless, ‘why’ has been unleashed…

I’m not talking about the multiple questions you get from a child at some point in his or her development, where the whys are string together ad nauseam. What usually begins with “why is the sky blue”—which is of course because a clear cloudless daytime sky is blue due to molecules in the air that scatter blue light from the sun more than they scatter red light—just turns into another why, often regardless of the answer given. These whys inevitably end with “Because I said so.”

The marketing world of why is completely different. Don’t get me wrong, having asked why on many occasions, “because I said so” is a completely legitimate answer, but let’s consider the why revolution before just dismissing it because the customer is always right (which they are by the way).

It’s certainly still acceptable to only understand the what. The customer has a marketing campaign that needs to be executed. We can just care about what it is and how we get it done. By no means would I ever suggest poking the customer in the eye with “Why are you doing this?” and then huffing like Al Gore at a debate if you don’t like the answer. But here’s where the revolution part comes in.

It could be the campaign will be even more successful if the whys take over and collaboration between customer—and not just vendor, but partner—develops.

So, what are some whys?

Why this audience? Why now? Why this design? Why this channel? Why not consider other channels? Why this paper? Why this fold? Why this envelope? Is there a split? Why?

Stop it! You’re making me crazy. This isn’t a game show and there really may not be a need to ask all this, but why could turn into a different ‘what’ and that could be more cost-effective, more timely, more engaging, achieve a better return, evoke a better reaction, and ultimately achieve better results.

If the customer wants to do a marketing campaign and no one asks why, then maybe that customer hasn’t had the benefit of expert outside advice. Or maybe that customer doesn’t need the advice—but does it hurt to ask why? Wouldn’t it be better to collaborate and make whatever the objectives are easier to obtain? I think so.

Asking ‘what’ is perfectly acceptable. But the truth be told, marketing is an industry of thinkers and if you really want to help your customers, not only do you have to think yourself—you have to make them think too. Why does that.

Remember, if you’re not part of the revolution, it usually means you miss the challenges, but you most certainly miss the opportunities. Why not try why and see what happens.

John Sisson is president of Universal Wilde. Learn more about Universal Wilde via the company’s blog. Read more from John in Direct by Design.

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