Brand messaging is a foundational element of any successful marketing strategy. It is the communication of a company’s unique value proposition, purpose, and voice to its target audience. A strong brand message sets the tone for all marketing efforts and helps to establish a company’s identity in the minds of consumers.

Differentiation in today’s crowded marketplace is essential for a brand to stand out against its competitors. A strong brand message communicates what sets a company apart from others and why customers should choose them. A differentiated brand stands out in the mind of consumers and helps to create a competitive advantage that can lead to increased market share and profitability.

Few businesses today can thrive by simply inundating customers with messages about the features and benefits of their products or services. People need a deeper reason to choose your brand over another. If you’re not sure what that reason is, your business will likely struggle to thrive among all the competition. 

The sheer volume of companies seeking to gain and keep a foothold in today’s market means that your business needs something special to get through all the noise, and this is where the Golden Circle theory comes into play.

The Golden Circle Theory

 The Golden Circle theory argues that many of today’s most successful companies think beyond the practical, rational benefits of the products and services they offer. While some companies start by explaining what they offer to their customers, big names like Apple begin by examining the how and the why behind their business first. 

Just consider Apple’s slogan “Think Different” and how unrecognizable this tech behemoth would be today if it instead settled on “We sell computers.” From Apple’s perspective, customers choose a business based on more nebulous, emotional reasons than simply needing a MacBook or iPhone. In short, people want to support companies driven by shared values and beliefs.

However, companies like Apple approach things in a completely different way by starting with their “why” before mentioning their products, and the “how” and “what.” The fundamentals of the Golden Circle theory are relatively straightforward and consist of three main parts.

The “Why”

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. The question of “why are we in this business?” should be the focal point of any brand. Naturally, small business and nonprofit leaders are focused on the bottom line, but there is a valuable story to be told via the reasons why your business or nonprofit does what it does. 

Perhaps there’s an unfulfilled need in the marketplace or your community that your business will cover, or maybe you simply have an innovative vision for the future of your industry. Perhaps your business has a personal, or mission-driven “why.”

The “why” behind your brand should define the overarching purpose of the company beyond the bottom line, giving customers and employees a more meaningful reason to support your business.

The “How”

The next part of the Golden Circle theory addresses how your brand achieves its “why” objective. This may include the processes or systems that separate your business from competitors. For example, you can create an online clothing store that uses only ethically sourced fabrics to support your “why” of moving fashion in a more sustainable direction. 

The “What”

The final aspect of a Golden Circle brand is what your company actually does in terms of the products or services it provides. This portion of the Golden Circle theory should position your company in the market as a distinctly unique and innovative industry leader. 

While this part of the Golden Circle seems self-explanatory, it’s important to consider how your offerings correspond to the why and how that defines your brand. What is it about your products or services that bolster the purpose of your company? For a company like Tesla, selling electric vehicles is simply a means to achieve its stated goal of making the world less dependent on fossil fuels. 

Regardless of “what” you are selling, your products or services must relate to the company’s primary vision and motivation. If you keep the “why” squarely in mind, compelling brand messaging will follow. 

The Benefits of Using the Golden Circle Model

The truth is that many companies that don’t understand their core values and motivation will simply focus on selling products to turn a profit. No matter what kind of business you have, the Golden Circle model is an invaluable tool to use when forging a greater vision for your company’s future and communicating with your customers on an emotional level.

Understanding your company’s why, how, and what can serve as the North Star that guides your company forward. The values and motivations your business upholds will inhabit every aspect of how your company operates, from customer service to the workplace culture. 

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