Adnalysis: “What”, “how” as important as “why” for brands


by Bogosi Motshegwa (@Thinkerneur) Whatever the brief, most often than not, the end goal or desired result may be consolidated into or boiled down to the following: “We just want to be the best in our category” — usually linked to the increase in sales or market share. As a result, that may be translated or interpreted as: “We want to be leaders or thought-leaders in our category.”

What does it mean to be a thought-leader?

I define “thought-leadership” as follows: “Thought leaders don’t fight within existing categories; they create new categories — they set the benchmark”.

With that said, it’s imperative to note that, to reach that sort of level, you need to think in a particular way. It’s a cliché but, to be a leader in your category, you need to do things differently. Literally. You need to discard everything that the category is defined by and create new category norms, new expectations that people will expect from every player in category eventually.

To be a leader is to set benchmarks. What benchmarks are you currently setting? Are your marketing efforts based on what is currently working or what you want to work? Are you following or are you setting trends?

To lead your category is to redefine key fundamental pillars

  1. Process > objectives: To be the best brand in your category; using ‘market share’, ‘market/share value’ and ‘sales’ as criteria for being the best, you need not be worried about these. To increase market share, don’t focus on the numbers. Objectives are easy to set; the difficult part is getting there. Because objectives are usually numeric and therefore measurable, the process to achieving them by default is informed by measurable ideas. For example, if the objective is to increase share value by 10%, then the solution will be driven by that. We will either increase price and maintain the same packaging size or decrease the packaging size and maintain the same price. But what value does that bring for the people that you are targeting? Instead, be obsessed with the process and not the objectives. If you think about it, meeting your objectives is a result of your process. This means that you need to think more about how to get there. Spend more time thinking about clever ways to achieve your objectives. Depending on your category and what you offer, you need to think of ways to create layers of value around whatever it is that you are offering.
  2. Competitors: Who you view as your biggest competitor or include in your list of competitors has major implications on how you act or react. Who you think is the “best” unconsciously sets precedence for how “best” you will be. If your competitors are players within your category or industry, then, by default, you are more likely to continue doing what the category has been doing and what people expect. If you stretch your competitor list outside your given category, you’re more likely to also broaden and stretch how you do things.
  3. What you do: You need to redefine what you do. There is a lot spoken about finding your ‘why’. Your purpose. Do not underestimate the ‘what’. You also need to be very clever and particular about what it is that you do. Linked to your redefined list of competitors, redefining ‘what’ you do may catapult your business. You need to be purposeful in defining your ‘what’. For example, Nike makes sneakers and sports apparel. But that’s not its business. According to its Nike On Demand case study, it’s in the business of “human potential”. That alone is enough to inspire creative work that pushes boundaries. What do you do? If you’re selling bread, what business are you really in? This may sound philosophical but redefining what you do will have critical implications on how you carry on with business going forward.


When you look at brands that have gained astronomical growth and success, their value is in how they innovated around ‘process > objectives’, ‘what’ they offer, and their ‘competitors’.

For example, Uber didn’t reinvent transportation; it simply changed the process — redefined what it does. American entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk, put it succinctly: “Uber is not in the business of transportation, they are in the business of time. They sell time”. Whether it’s conscious of this or not is beside the point; it’s also redefining its competitors. It overlooked traditional competitors in the form of yellow cabs and other forms of transportation and created new expectations by redefining category norms. Its business wasn’t transportation but rather making getting a taxi more simple. That was the value provided and, in return, it became the leader in the category.

The same principle applies for companies such as Airbnb, Google, and Nike. Success is underpinned by a purpose bigger than a product’s utility, its founders and numbers. “What” and “how” you do it is just as important as “why” you do it.


Bogosi MotshegwaBogosi Motshegwa (@Thinkerneur) truly believes that advertising can really change the world. Every single day he tries to prove this. He shares his thoughts on the industry and sometimes has unconventional views. Bogosi is the co-founder of Melanoid Éclat (for finding black entrepreneurs), a committee member of AMASA, an Advisory Council member and guest speaker at Vega, and also does speaker management at TEDxJohannesburg. He is currently a strategic planner at The Creative Counsel. He contributes the new monthly column, “Adnalysis”, which analyses adland from a strategist’s viewpoint, to

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