After 30 years in marketing and advertising my greatest joy, increasingly, comes from teaching. Several evenings a week, three semesters a year, I make the short dash from our agency digs in the rag district of Manhattan to NYU’s midtown campus on Bryant Park.

Each year, across a mix of courses ranging from Competitive Strategy and “Digital” Marketing (yes, I protest the label…) to Social Media and the Brand, I spend serious quality time with the emerging generation of global marketeers.

I relish the opportunities to share and explore activation planning frameworks, fresh tools and tested techniques of the emerging radical marketing discipline. I also love going deep into some of the more strategic marketing planning tools, like the simple but powerful Golden Circle tool developed by Simon Sinek. If you’re not familiar with the tool or its application spend a few minutes with Simon via his Youtube lecture here.

His main point is compelling: almost every business can tell you what they do, and just about as many can tell you howthey do it differently from everyone else who does it. But, claims Sinek, and daily evidence screams its truth, very few businesses ever identify and articulate why they do what they do.

Each semester I invite my students to develop a Golden Circle model. Many of them, when it comes to ‘why’, have a tough time getting it right. Often they identify something closer to a mission statement or business objective. The reason these fail the test of being a true and actionable why is also the reason getting the model right can deliver big-time business value for a brand — — the why must be something the targeted customer can share with the brand.

The prospective consumer must be capable, and likely, to feel the same way about themselves.

As Sinek says, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. The converted share a deeply felt emotional territory with a business and its brand, and this moves us to identify with the company. To be attracted to their products. To desire associating with — and even promoting — the brand. This is powerful stuff. It’s how powerful and enduring brands are built, and how high-value loyalty is engendered.

If you’re working for a business with brands, take the time to identify and articulate an authentic and distilled ‘why’. Then make sure every single person in the company believes in it. And lives it. Once a business and brand are locked and aligned around a truly compelling why, the marketing machine’s job — and this includes everyone from product managers, customer service teams, retail partners and the marketeers — is to express it. If it’s real and re-articulated in every program, campaign and creative brief, your why can’t help but bleed through everything you do, say and make as a brand.

Also publishing on my blog here.