Why ask why?

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It is an old maxim of marketing that to really sell something, one needs to talk about benefits, not features.  In a hospital for example, a highly trained staff is a feature. Getting home alive is a benefit.  Which means more to you?

As customers, and indeed in many facets of life, we want to know WIIFM (pronounced WHIFF-em, a term I first heard from Scott Reid at Phllter), meaning “What’s In It For Me?”  A long-running ad campaign in Toronto, for George Brown College, gets straight to this point by saying:  Brown Gets You the Job.

FASDFREE.org, the non-profit that fights Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, is almost as direct and much more poignant:  For the love of your child, don’t drink while pregnant.

A weaker benefit statement comes from a United Way campaign that advises us to Build up the person. Build up the community.

Weaker still is Lettuce Give.  People are hungry. from Second Harvest.  Yes:  it is absolutely shocking that we are not moved by the statement that people are going hungry in our communities.  But more effective would be a statement that demonstrates the WIIFM of giving to someone who’s hungry:  basically, how good we’d feel about helping them do better at school, do better at their job or get their life together overall.

Millions around the world go hungry every day because “the why” of giving is not made clear enough to us.  ”The why” is a term popularized by Simon Sinek, whose TED Talk has now been viewed more than 9 million times on YouTube.  His thesis is that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”:  they buy because they feel good about what you’re doing, and want to feel even better by supporting it.

What do you think: do we ever respond to advertising for altruistic reasons?  Or is it all about us?

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In case you missed it:  my short interview on CBC Radio One about IKEA’s horse meat problem 
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Also in case you missed it:  My BNN interview re. Lance Armstrong’s brand (starts at the 3:30 mark, after the ad).

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