Why we should ask, “Who cares?”


Today it is rare for a brand to have a genuine functional difference. That is, a feature or function that no other competitor can claim.

Let me illustrate. You can tout how your beer is quadruple filtered. But is that really a difference? We’re not even sure we know what it means. Or if it is really special. Are all beers quadruple filtered? I’m pretty sure I quadruple filtered a batch of beer during my short-lived home brewing career (it didn’t help my results). What does that extra filtering do anyway? How much better is quadruple filtered versus triple filtered?

I digress. Here’s the point. Hawking these functional attributes is not differentiating. More often than not it is confusing and distracting.

Combo platter?

For most brands, the way they separate is through some combination of product features or the process of how those features are delivered. This “secret sauce” approach can help marketers define an offering that feels a little more unique.

Be warned. This can be equally as dangerous as the quadruple filtering approach. It’s too easy to convince ourselves that the incremental difference of our feature set versus the closest competitor is exponentially more compelling.

We have to be honest with ourselves. Are we really that different? We should ask instead, “Does this actually bring real meaning to the lives of our prospects?” In other words, "Who cares?"

“Who cares?”

Let’s look at the question, “Who cares?” Are we really inquiring about whom in the general vicinity may have an emotional attachment? No. It has actually become less of a question and more of an indictment of a lack of emotional resonance. We’re not looking for an answer when we utter, “Who cares?” We use it to point out that an idea, a feature, a process, etc. has very little merit.

Here’s the fascinating part. We use the word ‘care’. We don’t say, “Who has an interest?” Interest is rational. To make our point, we get straight to the emotional. We ask, “Who cares?”

What if we actually asked the question as a touchstone for our brand? Right now, the question/statement means, “No one cares.” What if we took it literally? What if we used it to discover the compelling reasons a specific type of person would form an emotional bond with our brand? Suddenly, it becomes much, much more than a demeaning snipe. It becomes a challenge for all of us to find the emotional core of our brand.

A Big Audacious Meaning

Here’s where brand purpose can help. A Big Audacious Meaning helps forward-thinking brands create differentiation by bringing a brand purpose into the equation. This isn’t just adding one more functional proof point that may generate some fleeting interest. A Big Audacious Meaning gives your brand something significant. It adds the emotional clout that can give people that much sought after reason to care.

Why we care about caring

We want life to have meaning. We want to feel like the hours we spend and the effort we put forth each day has a positive impact in the world we live in. This is why we align with causes that match our belief system.

It’s why we put bumper stickers on our cars and wear slogans on our t-shirts. It’s why we donate and volunteer.

We yearn to care. Yet so many brands miss this about us. The ones that do get it get our attention. They stand out among the morass of feature-based positioning.

Brands with a Big Audacious Meaning understand that we want to care. Because of that, they seem unique to us. They seem genuinely different.

That gives us a reason to friend and like them. To purchase from and even advocate for them. In simplest terms, it gives us a reason to say, “We care.”

Dan Salva is a co-founder of Will & Grail, with more than three decades of experience in brand marketing and developing and implementing go-to-market strategies. He can be reached at dsalva@willgrail.com.

PurposeDan Salva