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Toddlers love to ask ‘Why?’ Marketers should too

Toddlers love to ask ‘Why?’ Marketers should too

Sometimes it helps to channel your inner toddler – especially when you’re trying to tell a story.

Toddlers don’t mess around when they want to know something. They understand the power of Why. If you’ve ever tried to have a conversation with a 3-year-old, you know what I mean.

The Whys come rapid fire. Why are you doing that? Why can’t I do that? Why is that blue? Why, why, why?

While toddlers may not know how to tie their shoes, they’ve nailed it as far as a communication strategy goes. And the great thing about it is, marketers can apply that method to how they help clients tell the story of their brand.

So in the spirit of National Tell A Story Day, try this: Think of your audience as a room full of toddlers (extremely intelligent, well-adjusted mini-humans, of course). You want to tell a story that connects with your audience and inspires them to take action. If we’re talking toddlers, then you’d better figure out the Why. You must be able to explain why your audience should pay attention to you, and you’ve got to be able to do it quickly and effectively.

It won’t take long for them to ignore you and to turn their attention to snacking on Play-Doh – or in a marketing context, for a potential customer to ditch your client and to consider a competitor.

But why focus on Why? Because it cuts to the core of what you’re trying to communicate in a way that How, What and other questions can’t. Why connects to the deepest reasoning behind decision making.

That was my main takeaway from last month’s Social Media Week Summit hosted by the University of Cincinnati. Students, faculty and staff from UC joined professionals from around the Greater Cincinnati community at the event to discuss the manifold personal and business applications for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like.

I attended the summit with my colleague Michael Abbott, and it didn’t take us long to identify a theme to the day’s workshops. In some form, “Focusing on Why” was being discussed all over the place – from the chairman of the university’s board of trustees, the social media directors from the Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati Reds, one of the founders of brand startup accelerator The Brandery and even 6-year-old fashion whiz/social media dynamo Mayhem.

In marketing, the How and What are often relatively easy to discern. The Why is harder. It’s more abstract. But Why is more powerful. If you can connect with your audience in a way that lets you understand why they think and feel about something – say, your client’s brand – you will have much more influence over how that audience acts.

Try it yourself. Next time you’re meeting with a client, remember to think like a toddler. Follow up one Why question with another one. Then another, until you get the deepest insight to tell the best story.

Tom Robinette is a content marketing manager for The Deciding Factor. Tom graduated from from Kent State University’s nationally accredited journalism program and spent a good portion of his career in the Deep South. He is from Cincinnati and lives in West Chester, Ohio, with his wife and three children. He is a long-suffering Cincinnati sports fan and afflicted by a debilitating sweet tooth.