by Dan Crask, Creative Director & Co-Owner, Brand Shepherd

Brand development is an exercise of examining what the brand is and is not, and then codifying the discoveries in a way that the brand owner(s) and stakeholder(s) can easily leverage to grow the brand.

Here are what I know to be the next of the 5 key ingredients for building a brand:

Part 4: The Brand’s “Why?”

Ingredients 1, 2, and 3 covered the essentials. A product brand cannot exist without developing its voice, knowing its customer personas, and having a smartly designed visual identity that captures both.

The next ingredient is something that has gradually evolved into a perceived essential ingredient in recent years thanks to a TEDx Talk.

By now, I actually have a lot of respect for anyone who is not at least a little familiar with Simon Sinek’s TEDx Talk about how brands should know the answer to the question: Why do we exist?

Simon demonstrate a number of valuable lessons learned from history as to why leading with the answer to that question is what separates success from failure among brands.

Discovering the brand’s “Why” is hard work, and it is not immediately apparent.

Yet as the “Start with ‘Why?'” movement has gained momentum, it has also become more and more complex.

Needlessly so.

I have been with brand owners while working on this question who sat nervously in meetings as we tried to grasp some Holy Moment of brand self-awareness that seemed ethereal.

I have even talked with some brand stakeholders who, having failed in their minds to develop a sufficient “Why?,” feel guilty or like their brand is somehow incomplete.

What started out as a very simple observation by Simon Sinek has turned into a monster, and I would like to bring it back to its simple origins because it is something important to developing a brand of quality.

Let’s simplify the “Why?” question.

A brand’s “Why” is the problem it solves.

That’s it.

The purpose, now called a “Why?,” has been made to be way more complicated than it actually is.

It’s also been made to be something new. It’s neither complicated or new.

The Why = the problem the brand solves.

When I and my team at Brand Shepherd conduct brand development, the “Why” is often one of the las things we cover because the brand voice and customer personas help inform the answer to why a brand exists.

  • The money management app’s Why is to make managing money simple and intuitive.
  • A shoe brand’s Why is to make comfortable and/or high-perform footware.
  • The snack bar brand’s Why is to make a delicious and fulfilling snack bar.

See? Isn’t that easy?


A Method

To help get started with this process for your brand, use some good old fashioned pencil and paper. Use 3 sheets, and at the top of each use one of these words: Why, How, and What.

Then, keep them on your desk for a few days, and jot down words and phrases that you believe belong on each sheet category.

You’ll move some words and phrases around, so the old adage is true here, “Done is better than perfect.”

Just write.

Once you have each page with what you believe are the key elements, share it with your brand stakeholders so you can begin the refinement process. In the end, the Why should be a single sentence. The How and What should be bullet points of what you make and how you make it.

Outside guidance, such as from Brand Shepherd, really brings this process to life because questions are asked that either won’t be asked from within or will take a long time to get to because you or your team is too close to the brand.

Still, the process above is a solid start that any leader within a brand organization can start.


In the final segment I will complete our recipe by shamelessly emphasizing the importance of a qualified Chef to put all these ingredients together, aka, Brand Shepherd.

If this has helped you identify that your product brand needs to define its voice, please get in touch. Brand Shepherd would be delighted to consider working alongside your product brand.