Want to build a better business? Focus on the "why you do what you do" part of your company.
Funs Jacobs knows branding and startups like none other. As he calls it: Branding is the most underutilized power that almost all startups overlook.
Funs comes from the entertainment industry and that makes his take on companies and the formation of companies fresh and unorthodox. The following insights are based on a conversation we had a few weeks back.
Back to the conversation I had with Funs
We were at the launch of the new Call of Duty WW2.
The event was nice but we could not keep ourselves from talking business, branding, and startups.
So the story went from great subject to subject until Funs told me about a young company from a girl he helped at the University of Amsterdam.
The girl had a small direct to consumer company that sold shoelaces. Her proposition was crystal clear; “We sell recycled shoelaces made from plastic in fun bright colors.”
Sounds like a cool idea with some decent potential I thought.
It’s good for the environment I thought and that is potentially why she positioned herself the following way: Buy our shoelaces and help save the environment, help save the planet.
I told Funs I thought it could be a hit but he disagreed. At first, I did not understand why he did not think the company would do good.
Let me explain why he thought the company would not do great in its current state: The mission is decent he said and the “save the planet” vibe is oke but it will not take the company to the stratosphere.
So why not, I asked.
And that is when he blew me away with his fresh insight:
At first, people will buy the shoe laces and they will feel like they have contributed to a cleaner earth. When they do their marketing, launch, and PR correct they could get a major spike in sales he told me, but after the first initial spike in sales, it’s over for them…
Why I asked, and he said it’s simple.
People will contribute and buy their first pair of laces possible but they will not buy a second or a third pair that quickly. It’s basic psychology. In their minds, they have made an effort and they made a contribution by buying a pair of colorful shoelaces. So why would they buy another of your pair? They will not because they already contributed to buying the first pair. The consumer lacks the need to keep on purchasing. Their incentive is met from the single purchase.
I was astonished by this insight because it is so true. Why would I buy a second or a third pair I asked myself when I already got the dopamine shot in my brain after buying the first pair. It makes a lot of sense.
So how do you fix this paradox I asked Funs and he told me the following:
It’s because the “WHY” is not strong enough. The WHY of a company he explained to me is based on the talk from Simon Sinek. The “why you do what you do” as a company is the most important factor for people to buy your product.
Saving the planet is good for a one time purchase. You as a consumer did your contribution and now you can go on to the next thing. But when the WHY is in check, people will come back and buy your product over and over.
Funs always tells me this is why he keeps on buying an iPhone even know he knows about a phone with better specs. It’s because Apple has it’s WHY on point. The reason they do what they do is in check.
You might be thinking, is the girl and her laces company doomed? Hell no! In fact, he helped her to reposition her companies “WHY” in the 15-minute session they had together. And to this day she is still working from the WHY perspective they constructed together.
What is her why?
He looked at her product: Recycled shoelaces in many bright colors. After asking her about her product he came to the conclusion that only a rebel is not satisfied with the shoelaces they get with a pair of shoes they buy in the store.
A true rebel chooses her/his own shoelaces. A rebel does not take their shoelaces they get for granted.
To me, the be a rebel approach sounded like a bold claim based on guesswork. But this was not the case. He made a compelling argument based on his own experience when his younger brother came to Amsterdam to visit him over the weekend.
In his words:
“When my little brother, 15 years old from a small town in the Netherland called Venlo, came to Amsterdam to hang out with me for the weekend I noticed something. The whole weekend he kept on bugging me if we could go to this specific fashion store. So oke, I went with him to the store expecting him to buy a cool shirt or a pair of sneakers but this was not the case. Once we were there he bought himself a bandana… A freaking bandana. I almost starting laughing, why would you buy that I asked him? It’s not that you are going to wear this to school right, you’re joking right I asked my brother?
Oh hell yeah I’m going to wear this to school he responded. He didn’t care what his cool brother, who is 12-years older than him and lives in the “cool, big city” Amsterdam, thought. These kids, like my little brother, do what they want and buy/wear what they want. This generation takes pride in being unique, being a rebel, an icon, someone that wants to take risks and be themselves.”
But he made another valid point:
“Consumer buying trends are moving away from the massive, corporate companies with their bloated marketing budgets. People don’t want their lives controlled by mega cooperations with billions of money to ensure their target groups do what they want them to do. This fact and the story of my little bro gave me the insight to come up with the answer for the shoelaces company. Why should we wear the shoelaces that Nike or Adidas decide for us, the standard shoelaces that come with the shoes we want. I (me, the rebel) want to decide which shoelaces I wear, that’s not up to the major companies.”
And just like that, I was convinced, being a REBEL is cool these days.
Long story long
In 15 minutes they changed the whole wording of the company: Why should you be happy with the standard shoelaces you get? Our company empowers our customers to make their own choices. We empower you to be yourself. BOOM. I was amazed.
From a simple colorful shoelace, they made a product that empowers rebels to be themselves and to not take the status quo for granted.
So they repositioned to the rebel millennial target audience and the positioned their product in a way that it would attract early adopters and first movers in the fashion industry. Very smart if you ask me.
Every product or company can get it’s WHY is check. It’s just a matter of some fresh insights and some clever thinking.
Do not be that startup that overlooks branding and thinks it’s something for large corporates and direct to consumer brands. Even you can come up with a strong message. Funs understands this and knows how to get this out of a founder.
I hope to learn many more insights on branding and positioning from Funs in the future.
Good luck and take a look at your own WHY.
Why do you do what you do?