The Golden Circle
May 03.2013
Archived under: Strategy 

Branding Lessons from the Golden Circle

What makes a good brand?

Or more to the point, what makes a consumer choose one brand over another?

Author Simon Stinek first introduced the concept of the Golden Circle in his book Start with Why, released in 2009. But it was through a TED Talk that the concept has gained the most momentum, with companies scrambling to share the video with everyone from stakeholders to employees. For Stinek, within this circle lies the formula to create branding that resonates with consumers and surpasses market competition.

So what is it?

According to Stinek, “The Golden Circle is an idea, an alternative perspective, that explains why some people and organizations are more innovative, more influential, command greater loyalty and are able to repeat their success over and over.” During the talk, he points to examples such as how marketing goliaths such as Apple command customer loyalty and preference over other brands, or how Martin Luther King Jnr. became the voice of the Civil Rights movement, by utilising this school of thought.


The circle has three layers:






Most organizations work from the outside in, and formulate their branding around WHAT they do, make or sell.


For a brand to be truly remarkable, it has to represent WHY you do it. 

“Everybody knows “what” they do 100%. Some know how they do it. But very very few people or organizations know WHY they do it. And I don’t mean to make a profit, that’s the result. It’s the “why”, why do you do it, why do you get out of bed in the morning, and why should people care,” explains Stinek.

This founding principle should be palpable within your market strategy, as it appeals to consumers on a primal level. Conveying why you make your product or offer your services appeals to the basic biology of how humans make decisions.

Our Neocortex brain is responsible for making rational decisions and analytical thought. The central two sections of our brain, the Limbic brains, are responsible for trust, emotional and importantly, loyalty. Businesses create winning brands by targeting these layers. By aiming for an emotional response as opposed to an analytical once, brands like Apple are able to drive consumer engagement and behaviour simply through turning the conventional way of outside>in thinking on its head, and creating marketing strategies that communicate from the inside>out.

When you’re thinking about ideas for your branding or marketing strategy, remember the golden rule:


“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”