The Golden Circle

Posted by: in Analytics, Marketing Insights, Pre-Commerce, Social Media Insights & Trends, Thinking Creatively on August 25, 2011

Last week my colleague, Bob Pearson, shared a TED video with me called “How great leaders inspire action.” The video features author, Simon Sinek, who wrote a book titled, Start With Why. During the talk, Sinek explains what makes leaders (and companies) so successful. In particular, he calls out Apple, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Wright Brothers and goes into detail about why each was able to rise to their iconic status in spite of major competition at the time within their respected spaces.

Sinek’s main thesis of the video (and the book I assume) centers around a convention he calls “The Golden Circle.” The concept is pretty straightforward but after listening to him for just a few minutes, it immediately becomes clear why most companies and leaders get bogged down in mediocrity versus achieving greatness. Instead of starting with vision or the “why” of the Golden Circle, they start with tactics or the “what.” In doing so, they fail to differentiate themselves meaningfully from their competitors and as a result, don’t inspire their customers, followers or other key stakeholders to do anything other than interact with them in a transactional fashion.

We followed, not for [Martin Luther King, Jr.], but for ourselves. And, by the way, he gave the “I have a dream” speech, not the “I have a plan” speech.

– Simon Sinek

As someone that thinks a lot about this kind of stuff, I was intrigued by how simply Sinek was able to articulate this invaluable lesson. For me, it’s become a way of life to think more about the “why” and less about the “what” (although trust me, the “what” is every bit as important as the “why” or the “how” but needs to come last in the grand scheme of things). To me, this translates into the people I connect with, the products I buy, the experiences I seek out and of course the company I decided to work for starting this past March.

Building on that last point, one of the things that most impressed me when I started interviewing at WCG was that they were much more focused on the “why” (vision) and “how” (strategy/frameworks) than they were with the “what” (tactics). Given the fact that so many companies dive right into the tactics when it comes to social media, e.g. “let’s get set up on Twitter” or “let’s create a blog,” I loved the fact that WCG’s “why” centered around giving clients advantages with their marketing efforts by mining the exabytes of data the Web offers.

This “why” allows us to move to the “how” i.e. discovering who their top 50 influencers were and in which channels the conversations about their company, products and services were taking place. Once companies understand this information, they have a better shot at knowing which influencers to spend their time with, what channels they should set up shop in and what types of content they should be providing in those channels.

Starting from this standpoint offers a defensible jumping point that every CEO, CMO and CFO can feel comfortable with because it provides the groundwork from which all other content creation and engagement should flow from. It also takes the squishiness out of social media which often gets dinged for being too soft and not measurable. It also allows you to make all of your other marketing, PR and paid media efforts work harder because you’re now working with inside information. Who wouldn’t want to use that “why?”

So what’s your “why?” Is it working?


By: Aaron Strout

Aaron is the President of WCG, one of the three agencies under the W2O Group umbrella. He is a regular contributor to Marketing Land and a co-host of video podcast, Live from Stubbs.

Find me on: Twitter Facebook
Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK


(required, but never shared)

or, reply to this post via trackback.