“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” seems like a concept a little far-fetched for us techies bent on the hard specs, but TED Talks speaker Simon Sinek makes a good case for it, especially when applied to Apple and the iPhone. I kind of resent putting them on the same pedestal as Martin Luther King and the Wright Brothers, but the logic is largely sound. Basically, Sinek proposes that people buy products because they align themselves with a company’s cause for being, not because their products they produce are necessarily innovative or useful. Simply having a complete, polished thingamabob isn’t enough to generate a sale – a financial jump requires an amount of conviction that only a common ideology can create.
I see RIM beginning to think this way with their new “Love What You Do” campaign, which, for the record, I have hated from the get-go. Why? Precisely because it skips that “what” layer altogether; the ads don’t show the phone, they don’t show what it does, and they don’t show why it’s better than the competition. By all means, it’s a fine message and makes me warm and tingly for having some passion about the things I do (whether that’s blogging like a dog or scratching my crotch sitting on the couch), but it has nothing to do with BlackBerry or buying one. However, if Sinek’s right that buyers don’t care about “what”, but prioritizes “why”, maybe these emotional appeals will have greater effect to consumers at large.
HTC’s “You” campaign strikes both “what” and “why” chords simultaneously in a balance that I think is ideal. HTC “You” ads show people using their phones in practical contexts while also delivering the higher-level message of “there are many facets to your identity”. The First Else sends a similar message (something more along the lines of “it’s time for change”, the angle Wind Mobile is working), though like RIM, fail to show a lot of their phone in action in favour of creating an emotional connection. Still, the First Else has ridiculously high production values in their ads, and are worth a gander.
If you’re looking to do some more noggin-scratching on topics like this, I encourage you to check out books like “Guns, Germs, and Steel” by Jared Diamond and “The Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. Which ads catch your eye – the ones that show you what the phone does, or the ones that appeal to some kind of higher meaning?