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The Power of Why: A Psychological Revelation

Aug 17, 2007
Here's why 'WHY' is such a profit-making marketing trigger.

"Stop taking two and three plates of food," my mother said to me angrily.

I was at a wedding and seven years old. Back then, at a lot of the weddings we used to go to, the food would be pre-served on a plate. I could never get enough of those calorie-ridden platters. Waylaying different waiters, (so I would not be recognised), I'd polish 3-4 plates without blinking an eye.

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Mum wasn't impressed, and told me to stop and desist.
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"Why?" I'd ask. Her stock reply was always, "It's bad manners to do that." This Dustbin Hoffman act obviously got her goat, but it left me unfazed. It must have bugged her more than I expected though, because in a short while Dad was peering down at my food-stuffed face.

My question remained unchanged. "WHY?"

"If you invite a hundred people to a wedding, how many would you cater for?" he asked. "A hundred," I answered, proud of my analytical genius. "If you ate four plates," he continued, "how many would remain?" He prompted quickly, "Ninety-six right?" I nodded vigorously. "That means some people don't eat. If you're so hungry, we can go out after the wedding and get something to eat, but don't deprive others."

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Dad Made Sense. Do You?
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Dad understood psychology. He had to sell my brain an idea that my rumbling stomach didn't want to understand. And he did it by answering the question, 'WHY?' How many of us ignore this powerful trigger in our marketing because it seems too obvious, almost too simple?

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Why 'Why?' Puts Elvis' Shaking and Moving to Shame
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Let's examine the six honest men. What, How, When, Where, Who and Why. Which one of these is the most powerful psychological movers of them all? This would be better answered with an example.

Let's assume you needed to go to the supermarket. All the other triggers (how, when, where, who and what) would make absolutely no difference if you didn't know 'WHY' you were headed there. Everything else would be totally irrelevant. Once you know WHY you're doing something, everything else is just a matter of logistics.

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Why Does 90% of Advertising and Marketing Communication Go Down the Drain?
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Simple. Look for the WHY in advertising and scarcity pops up instantly. All the fancy layouts and the smart headlines can't quite compensate for the niggling question that goes unanswered. All your customers want to know is, Why should I choose you? Why should I take this decision? Why should I spend this money? Why should I look at your website? Why should I read your brochure?' Why should I listen to your speech? 'Why? Why? Why?'

Dump the cotton woolly fluff. Get your customer's brain to go scrambling like an over-enthusiastic pup after a Frisbee. Once you have enough WHY factor built into what you're selling, everything else is just clip, clop, fall in place stuff.

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Be an Accountant, Do an Audit
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Look at your communication. Like reeeeeeeaaaaally look at it! What about your website? Does it answer the question WHY straight up? And does it do it on the first page? How about your brochure? Does its headline make it a cinch for dustbin land? What about your speech? Do you have enough beds to compensate for your lack of WHY?

I could go on, but I suspect you get the message.

Be merciless. If the WHYs don't stack up, dump the communication. Or chop and change it till it does.

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Finding the Right Level of Why Power
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If you noticed, Mum actually answered my WHY question. She just didn't answer it to my satisfaction like Dad did. Herein lies a subtle, yet formidable difference.

It's not enough to simply have the WHY question answered. It's got to be the most 'Rambo in your face' answer, or it will bounce higher than a defaulting cheque. Let your WHYs loose on each other, and let only the one with the most testosterone come out shining.

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Aristotle -- Man, Was he Smart or What?
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All communication must lead to change.

That's what the old wise man said over 2300 years ago. Not some or most communication.

All.

Yet we are dealing with customers that inherently detest change. WHY is the only motivator that allows them to make that shift. Change is still a scary word, but at least the justification sits nicely in their cranium.

In fact, if you look closely, even a WHAT question like, What's in it for me?, is really a "WHY" issue. All it is saying is 'Why should I pay attention?' Give your customers the WHY factor and their buying sprees will reflect nicely in your growing bank account.

This is simple, down to earth advice. Yet it represents one of the most powerful psychological triggers why people buy. WHY on earth would you ignore it?
About the Author
Wouldn't you love to stumble upon a secret library of small business ideas? Find simple, yet electrifying ideas onmarketing strategy,psychological tactics and branding. Head down to http://www.psychotactics.com#smallbusinessideas today and judge for yourself.
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