Golden Circle Marketing—The Key to Apple’s Success

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "Start With Why" by Simon Sinek. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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What is “Golden Circle” marketing? Is it more effective than other marketing strategies?

Golden Circle marketing is a marketing strategy promoted by Simon Sinek in his book Start with Why. Golden Circle marketing depends on your WHY, your central belief. It’s the concept that motivates you to get out of bed in the morning. In terms of an organization, it’s the reason you’re in business. 

We’ll cover examples of Golden Circle marketing and look at how to use Golden Circle Marketing to maintain a successful business.

The Key to Golden Circle Marketing: Defining Your Why

In Golden Circle marketing, the WHY leads to the HOW and the WHAT:

  • The WHY: This is the vision of your company. It’s the motivation behind your service or product. It’s the mission that you stand for.
  • The HOW: The HOW are the practical steps you need to take to achieve your WHY. The HOW is the practical, operational knowledge that brings the vision to life. 
  • The WHAT: The WHAT is the product or service your selling. It’s the tangible part of your company, and it’s also the easiest to identify. 

As an example of Golden Circle marketing, we’ll use technology company Apple:

  • WHY: We think differently. We want to challenge the status quo. 
  • HOW: The way we do this is by making products that are easy to use, elegant, and well designed. 
  • WHAT: And we just happen to make computers as our products. 

These three elements form Golden Circle marketing. The Golden Circle looks like a target, where the WHY is the bullseye, the HOW is the middle ring, and the WHAT is the exterior ring. When you start with WHY, you build your company’s message from the inside out. As a result, customers want to engage with your product because they believe in it. They become loyal to you and your company, which builds your brand and spreads your message. 

Apple and Golden Circle Marketing

Apple consistently uses Golden Circle marketing correctly. They begin with WHY, then figure out HOW they’ll achieve their vision and WHAT they need do create to get there. 

This is clear in Apple’s marketing. Think about how strange it would sound if Apple took the typical WHAT to HOW to WHY marketing approach. It might sound something like this: 

“We make good computers. Our computers are easy to use, elegant, and well designed. You should buy one.”

Now, compare that to the start with WHY approach that Apple actually uses to inspire customers

“We think differently. We want to challenge the status quo. The way we do this is by making products that are easy to use, elegant, and well designed. And we just happen to make computers as our products. You should buy one.”

The difference is that Apple’s products are a result of their WHY. This is Golden Circle marketing. Their MacBooks, iPods, and iPhones are just a physical representation of the company’s core beliefs. Therefore, when someone buys an Apple product, they’re not just buying the WHAT: they’re buying the WHY, too. 

Put another way, people don’t actually want to buy stuff. They want to buy ideas. They want to join movements. Putting your WHY first ensures that your ideas, not your product, are what make you stand out from the crowd.

It’s not that Apple’s products don’t matter – quality matters, of course. But the connection between a strong WHY and a high-quality WHAT becomes an unstoppable combination. Lots of companies make arguably equally high-quality products – but people don’t feel the same emotion and inspiration with a Dell laptop or a Samsung phone. Apple is unique in the strength of people’s emotional and inspirational connection to their mission – and this starts with WHY. This is the essence of Golden Circle marketing.

Golden Circle Marketing—The Key to Apple’s Success

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  • What Steve Jobs did right compared to every other business leader
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Amanda Penn

Amanda Penn is a writer and reading specialist. She’s published dozens of articles and book reviews spanning a wide range of topics, including health, relationships, psychology, science, and much more. Amanda was a Fulbright Scholar and has taught in schools in the US and South Africa. Amanda received her Master's Degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.

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