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All Great Products start with “Why”. As a PM you should too

Photo by Anastasia Petrova on Unsplash

Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers

A computer on every desk and in every home.

I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

Anyone with a keen interest in brands or history would have heard the above lines. The first two are from Apple and Microsoft respectively. The third one is the life’s mission of one of the famous revolutionary, political leader, philanthropist, and president of South Africa — Nelson Mandela. And who can forget the famous “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King!

You might be thinking “How are they related to Product Management?”

Well, each one of the above examples talk about how a great company or movement started with a “Why”.

The Golden Circle

In his famous book “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek, the author talks about how our brain makes a decision. He talks about the “limbic” part of the brain which is the emotional center of the brain and is responsible for making the decisions. Unfortunately, this part is not the one responsible for language. As a result, feelings and even a “Why” are difficult to articulate.

Top 3 Reasons Why PM should start with “Why”


People buy your products when they can relate to your product’s “Why”.

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Ever imagined why there is a “cult” following for the Apple products or the Harley Davidson motorcycles. If you have waited in the queue for hours to get hold of an iPhone or a Macbook, you surely know what I am talking about here. It’s not just about the hardware that a Macbook or iPhone offers. Dell is known to offer great laptops (with good hardware) at a much lower price than Apple. So why could Dell never command such a massive following as Apple?

This brings us to Apple’s “Why”, the way they challenge the status quo. Any individual relating to that “Why” will be more prone to buying a Macbook than a Dell laptop. If you ask one of these people the reasons behind their decision, you might hear statements like “Apple’s hardware is great”, “Security is really the key for me”. They would not be able to articulate clearly the reason (Remember all our key decisions are made from our Limbic brain).

Loyal Customers

Photo by Owen Lystrup on Unsplash

Southwest Airlines was neither the pioneer in the low-cost airlines nor did they have more number of routes than their competitors. However, they had a clear “Why”. Back then if someone would have asked their founders who their biggest competition was, they would have mentioned: “trains, cars, buses” and any other similar low-cost transport. Their “Why” was not just to become another low-cost airline, they championed the commoners. In fact, one of their ad campaigns had a tagline — “You are now free to move about the country”. They made it cheap, fun and simple.

After the September 11, flight travel was greatly reduced. The entire flight industry business plummeted. Many airline business’ bottom lines became red. However, this was not the case with Southwest. In fact, there were many instances when their customers came forward to help them morally and even financially. One such note accompanying a check of $1000 read “You have been so good to me over the years, in these hard times I wanted to say thank you by helping you out.”

Manipulation can drive sales, but not create loyalty

Difficult to Imitate

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Copying a product is not difficult. Many companies have done it in the past. However, copying a clear “Why” from a company that your customers can relate to is near to impossible.

United Airlines and Delta Airlines looked at the success of Southwest and decided to launch a low-cost product themselves. In 2003, Delta launched its low-cost alternative “Song”. Less than a year later, United launched “Ted”. However, their customers could not understand their “Why”. Both United and Delta had successfully copied the “What” but they did not have a clear “Why”. As a result, both failed in this low-cost category.


Customers don't buy “what” a company makes, but “why” it makes these products

Without a clear “Why”, a product can be defined only by factors like quality, cost, etc. However, as we saw earlier these are not difficult to imitate. The “why” communicates to the customers’ limbic brain/emotions and hence directly translates to favorable decisions.


Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action — By Simon Sinek



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Product Manager | Product Enthusiast | Nature Lover