Creating a Compelling Narrative: The Why Factor!

business narrativeImage by Evelina Kremsdorf

We are all part of a narrative, why not make it compelling?

The headlines read, ‘Dr. Sukarno Survives Fourth Attempt on Life’ (The Age, 1962); ‘U.S. Awaits Signal For Landing In Thailand’ (The Age, 1962). The letters to the editor that day were about the merits of using pipelines to move oil, and a discussion on hooligans in Russia. Hanna-Barbera (1962) in the Flintstones cartoon pointed to the issue of rising petrol prices and the concept of driving smaller cars. The date was the 15th of May 1962; the day that I was born, the day a new and definitive narrative began.

Bryce Courtenay, when speaking about grabbing the moment, puts it this way: ‘Birth-Tic-Toc-Tic-Toc-Tic-Toc-Death.’ We have no choice over our birth, and are unable to parry off death, but the one numinous opportunity we all have is to influence the outcome of every ‘Tic-Toc’ we experience.

I grew up in a family that spent little time watching television and entertainment. We didn’t watch sport; we played sport. It was a family of storytellers. At an early age I discovered that people enjoyed my story telling, and thus began an exciting journey as I learnt that I could determine the narrative and, in so doing, move others.

Many years later, I worked in commission sales and gained a renewed respect for the narrative, for this was how sales companies were forged. There was a particular occasion when, along with my uncle Alan Favaloro, we designed a narrative that changed the way we sold Aluminum Siding. Hundreds of sales people were trying to sell this particular cladding product, but with little success. I pondered the reasons for this and discovered that they were selling a product (the what). I immediately went to work on a new pitch; a narrative that was based not on ‘what’ but on ‘why’. We would stand in front of people’s houses with a sign and a camera and make a commotion. The occupants of the house would come out and ask what we were doing. We would explain that we were taking before and after shots of the house for use in the media. The people would exclaim that they hadn’t ordered the product but within minutes would make the enquiry and buy. In reality, they didn’t buy the product, they bought the narrative – the ‘why’ factor. They were purchasing the prestige, the magazine image. They were purchasing the narrative that said, ‘You will be better than your neighbours.’ It was a devious narrative but it worked because it focused on ‘why’ instead of ‘what’.

Simon Sinek (speaking on says, ‘people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.’ He goes on to say, ‘all organisations know what they do, some know how they do it, but most don’t know why they do it.’ It’s the ‘why’ factor that you and I need to reinforce in our respective narratives, particularly if we want to market to and influence Generation Y – a generation that is fixated on having choice and knowing why we do what we do.

If we consider some of the big brands, such as Harley Davidson and Apple, we discover that people never really buy the ‘what’, they actually buy the ‘why’. When people buy Harley Davidson, they buy attitude, they buy image, they buy a little piece of rebellion but in a safe way. The motor cycle is secondary. People don’t buy Apple computers, they buy innovation, they buy ‘dare to be different’, they buy ‘you too can be creative’. The computer is the extension of that.

As we go about scripting the narrative that we lead or are a part of, you and I should focus less on the what and more on the why. Our why leans itself to a much more compelling story, with far more effective outcomes in life and business.

Our next blog post will be about Gen X, Mario Kart and the Narrative – Who is scripting your life?

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