Who’s on First? Why’s On Second. What’s on Third?


Recently, we ran across an article from an advertising professional with a newly realized epiphany. In the article he references Simon Sinek’s "Start with Why", which helped revolutionize how brands and marketers approach storytelling, and how the industry as a whole is better for it. The ad-pro behind the article recognizes that the current trend of the brand storytelling manifesto is the go-to for advertisers. And like most advertising professionals trying to lay claim to the next trend, he proclaims that brands need to shift from “why” to “who.”

At Paragraph, this isn’t ground-breaking news. “Who” is what sparked the idea for us to form a new kind of agency in the first place. “Who is this for?” is always the first question we ask and is the focal point of our creative strategies. “Who” is not everyone, “Who” is selective. “Who” is focused. “Who” means you need to see the world from different points of view.


“Why” doesn’t exist without “Who.” Why a brand does what it does is an important story to tell, as long as you understand “who” it’s for, what matters to them, and how it aligns with their needs and personal brand. The “why” story can be a powerful thing; it can build internal culture; it can define a difference in a market; it can connect a product or a cause. As long as you know “who” “it” is for. 



In what seems like many light years ago in a galaxy far, far, away, we were tasked with communicating a new company-wide recycling program for a national food service client. We learned that not only did it need to be adopted internally by the company itself, but also by their clients and their client’s clients. And within each of those groups, there were different categories of people: leadership, executives, management, staff, end consumers, and more. Whew, it was a lot of layers and quite a matrix. So, we knew the typical one-size-fits all “Hey you, recycle!” broadcast-type campaign was never going to be effective. We began by asking the “who” questions, who recycles? Who doesn’t? Who knows about recycling? Who cares? Who understands the effects of recycling? Who understands the effects of not recycling? We then combed through volumes of information and conducted audience-specific surveys to get our answers. Only then did we put pen to paper to develop our creative strategy. Our concept was “Earth Sense.” It provided the framework to present the idea that everything and everyone is connected and each of our decisions and actions inform one another. The approach was much more nuanced, with an emphasis built on a firm understanding of “who” the audience was rather than “why” the company was embarking on a recycling mission. It was an exciting initiative that was well received, and helped connect individuals to a greater good by appealing to their specific outlooks.

You can interrupt someone with your story but if they’re not receptive, then you come off as annoying. If you craft your story, they may not listen. However, if you know who you are crafting it for, you stand a good chance that they will. 

To connect with the right people, find out:

  • Who are you speaking to?

  • What matters to them?

  • Why is our message relevant?

A look through our case studies, new and old, shows that this structure is in everything Paragraph does. While we’re happy to see our process being shared by the industry at large, we can’t help but wonder how long it will be until the next trend comes along and takes center stage. Whenver that is, whatever it is, Paragraph will be sure to keep “who” on first.

Robert AretzComment