Why the ‘Why’ Matters in Marketing

By The Malketeer

Clarity is becoming an endangered commodity in today’s marketing.

As campaigns become more complex and the pace of change accelerates, too many marketers find themselves adrift—uncertain of their objectives, unsure of what success looks like, and disconnected from the crucial ‘why’ behind their tasks.

This pervasive ambiguity is undermining efforts across all levels, from executives down to mid-level marketers and senior leaders.


The Clarity Conundrum

Executives and mid-level marketers often receive briefs without clear context or objectives. They are expected to deliver outcomes without understanding what those outcomes should achieve.

Senior marketers, on the other hand, face last-minute communication requests that must be completed swiftly, often without any strategic guidance.

While the ability to pivot and respond to trends, cultural dialogues, and the competitive landscape is crucial, clarity remains essential. It ensures that everyone within the organisation is aligned with the vision, goals, and strategic direction.

This alignment is not just about understanding one’s role but also about knowing the initiatives’ context and what success looks like.


Common Clarity Gaps

Several clarity gaps are prevalent across different organisational levels:

1. Lack of SMART Objectives: Many tasks are briefed without Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) objectives or clear Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

This disconnect often leads to investments that fail to meet strategic, brand, or commercial goals, affecting overall marketing performance and perceptions.

2. Undefined Commercial Goals: Strategic brand planning frequently lacks clarity on the desired commercial movement or growth, resulting in plans that need reworking and demotivating the teams involved.

3. Underfunded Innovation Pipelines: Businesses sometimes build innovation pipelines without adequate investment, leading to delayed launches and diminishing the competitiveness and relevance of the work.

4. Unclear Task Allocation: Tasks are often allocated with tight deadlines to appease someone, without clarity on why the work needs to be completed within that timeframe. This misallocation of resources hinders growth initiatives.

These gaps lead to demotivation, wasted time, and resources diverted from growth-driving initiatives, impacting both personal and professional fulfillment.


Addressing the Capability Gap

The root cause of these clarity issues can be attributed to several factors. Setting a clear vision takes time, and those responsible for this task are often stretched too thin.

Without sufficient headspace, developing and communicating a vision becomes challenging, making it harder to push back on requests from other teams. Moreover, there is a noticeable capability gap in making strategic choices and translating these into SMART objectives.

Psychological safety is another issue; many marketers lack the confidence to ask ‘why’ or to say ‘no’ to tasks that are not priorities. Even when clarity is established, many leaders assume that communicating it once is sufficient, failing to ensure alignment is truly embedded.

A lack of understanding of marketing’s role often leads to senior stakeholders setting tasks that could be better handled elsewhere.


The Leadership Responsibility

Effective leadership involves providing clarity. Leaders must carve out time to ensure they are clear on the bigger picture, the company’s growth agenda, the desired vision, and what success looks like.

This may mean slowing down to speed up—taking the necessary time to define context and clarity before sharing it in a motivating and inspiring manner.

Clarity should encompass:

1. Overall Vision and Goals: The wider business and brand’s commercial goals and the time-frame for achieving them.

2. Strategic Objectives: Choices around growth, target markets, and expected shifts.

3. Key Initiatives: Tasks and initiatives needed to achieve strategic objectives.

4. Desired Outcomes: Clear KPIs and success metrics for each initiative.

5. Individual Roles and Skills: Clarity on individual roles, required skills, and support needed.


Practical Steps for Achieving Clarity

1. Involve Marketers in Strategic Planning: This ensures they understand the ‘why’ behind market and consumer challenges and appreciate the strategic objectives.

2. Regular Updates: Regularly cascade corporate goals and performance results to maintain awareness of upcoming priorities.

3. Check Understanding: When allocating tasks, verify understanding either verbally or through reviewing briefs.

4. Review Outputs: Assess understanding and capability gaps by reviewing strategic plans, annual brand plans, or briefs.

5. Explain the Why: Always provide the purpose, intent, and clarity around success when assigning tasks. Push back if the ‘why’ is not clear.

A lack of clarity can lead to poor outcomes, misallocated investments, frustration, and demotivation. By providing clear direction and understanding, leaders can ensure their teams are motivated, aligned, and capable of delivering effective and impactful marketing strategies.

This holistic approach to clarity not only enhances individual performance but also drives sustainable growth and success for the organisation as a whole.

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