One of the first things I was taught at journalism school was ‘the five Ws and an H’. Who, What, Why, When, Where and How.

As techniques for story gathering go, it’s as basic as hell. But these simple, obvious tactics have held me in pretty good stead throughout my whole career, from journalism into communications. They still help now in building a comms strategy, a brand story, a PR plan, a press release – and in setting out a brand’s positioning.

Yet out of those six words, there is one in particular, that brands so often fail to address.

They know who they are, what they do, when they do it, where they do it and (hopefully) how they do it. It is the ‘why’ that’s one of the toughest questions your brand can face. Yet finding your why and allowing the answer to influence everything your brand does, can be the difference between your brand flailing or sailing.

Here’s why.

People now want more from the brands they use. They want to know what makes you tick. That you're on the same wavelength as them. Do you care about the same things they do? If you do, then how do they know that? In an age of transparency, they want to see behind the curtain. It's not enough to say you're doing good. Consumers want real, tangible proof of it, they can trust and believe in.

With trust in the old pillars of the establishment crumbling amongst the younger generation, our brands are becoming the new credible, dependable institutions consumers are turning to, to fill that gap.

The Edelman Trust Report 2018 shows how business is now expected to be ‘an agent of change’. CEOs are more trusted than politicians. The employer is the new safe-house in global governance.

What the public thinks of a brand and what it stands for is increasingly linked to revenue. In the UK, more than six out of 10 people believe brands have a responsibility to give back to society. Tellingly, six out of 10 believe a company can take actions that both increase profits and improve economic and social conditions within its community and industry. In other words, having a purpose beyond making money.

A separate study by Mediacom in September 2017 found four in 10 UK consumers had either abandoned or rejected a brand because of poor corporate values. Almost half were willing to pay more for a brand that supports a cause that’s important to them.

It has become far less about what you do and much more about why you do it.

Being a brand today is not just about having a purpose for purpose’s sake, or doing good for good’s sake. Corporate Social Responsibility goes far beyond making sure you’re recycling office paper. It’s about knowing what you stand for. It’s about knowing your ‘why’.

What if you’ve lost your ‘why’ - your brand is stagnant; your competitors are attracting the talent, the ideas, and the column inches; no-one says or writes good things about you anymore? Then you need to find it again.

You might be the sharp-looking, smart-sounding brand that's diversified so many times you've forgotten about the one great proposition everyone loved. Or the household name so busy chasing your tail through the media you’ve neglected to tell your best and brightest story.

In fact, the answer is often right at your feet. It just takes a little bit of mining for the gold that already exists.

As 2018 zips by, there will be the brands that talk a lot about all of the great products they have and there will be the brands that show people all the great things they do.

But left standing in 2019 will be the ones who have truly managed to answer the most difficult question. The ones who have found their why.

- James Saville