Since time immemorial, we have been mesmerized by the “Whys”.
Remember when you were last spoke to a three or four year old? What were the questions which she loved to keep asking, ad infinitum, till it drove you crazy?
“Why does this happen?” “Why does that happen?”
“Why?” “Why?” “Why?”
Apparently, toddlers are on to something. Repeatedly asking the question “Why” is a good way to dive deep into the root cause of any problem, situation or event.
Used in the Analyse phase of the Sig Sigma methodology (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control), the 5 Whys was popularized by the Toyota company as a way to improve the quality of their production processes.
In the process of doing so, you can slowly dive deeper and deeper into the original spark which triggered a whole series of cascading events and situations.
Although the method is called “5 Whys”, the number of questions you need to ask may be fewer or more times than five depending on your problem.
Here’s an example of how this may work, taken from Toyota’s website:
While the 5 Whys are closely associated with the world of manufacturing as a quality management tool, it can also be used in the world of content marketing.
While the 5 Whys has traditionally been used to zoom in on the root-cause of a company’s quality issues, it does offer a neat way for you to think about how you should create content which resonates with your customers.
By asking a consecutive series of “origin” questions, you can use the 5 Whys to…
You can also use the 5 Whys to develop your brand story and to uncover your own “Whys” as a company or business. This can then be shared with your communities online.
So how can you put the 5 Whys into action?
Let us look at some examples to see how we can use this process to develop content which delivers a stronger punch.
Let us assume that you’re manufacturing paper towels (hopefully sustainable ones). Now, using the 5 Whys method, we begin a series of questions and answers.
So the final “Why” of your product is to help diners to look good and feel good. In other words, you are not just helping restaurant guests to clean themselves, but to create a positive public perception and make them feel more confident of themselves.
Courtesy of HawtCelebs
Celebrity Alyssa Milano did just that. Read how she designed her own range of Viva paper towels, and created a new category called “Kitchen couture”.
Here’s another related example of how Kleenex (a paper towel and tissue manufacturer) used the power of Whys to develop “Achoo” – a cold and flu predictor that could help its customers to be better prepared for the sniffles.
Now imagine if you own a high-tech consulting firm helping small businesses to streamline their IT systems while saving time and costs.
How could your Whys possibly look like?
By asking these questions, you discover that the real value which your company provides isn’t just about helping companies to manage complicated and costly systems, helping them keep up with technology changes, or satisfy their end users. Rather, it lies in giving their users freedom to do what really matters in their lives.
A great example here would be Buffer. If you look at the gorgeous photos on their Instagram account, you wouldn’t have guessed that they help businesses by offering a social media management tool.
By digging deeper into their customer’s “Whys”, Buffer positioned their tool as a product to help digital nomads to lead the life they want, rather than to be chained to their laptops creating social media posts and scheduling content.
Using the same approach, we could identify the root cause behind why people use banking services.
In the case of DBS Bank, the company positioned itself as an “Invisible Bank” with the aim of minimising the hassle and steps needed for consumers to transact and accomplish their daily chores.
Quoting from my article documenting their digital journey,
The main idea is to make the bank “invisible” and to hide the banking products into what people want to do with their lives. Thus…
This insight came from an old saying that people who buy drills do not want a tool to drill holes, nor a hole in the wall. Rather, what they ultimately want is to create and preserve happy memories.
Using the 5 Whys method that I’ve illustrated above, you can delve more deeply into the psyche of your customers.
Challenge yourself to go beyond the superficial and the obvious. Seek to reach into the innermost thoughts, feelings and desires of your customers.
By doing so, you are better able to create and curate content which can truly connect with your customers.
Let me know if the 5 Whys (or 4 Whys or 6 Whys) work for you. I’d love to hear your experiences here.