Joshua Bell is one of the greatest violinists in the world. One morning, in the middle of rush-hour in Washington, DC, Bell carried his 3.5 million dollar violin—which he’s holding in this photo— down into a busy metro station. He laid his violin case down on the platform and threw in some bills and coins. He started playing. He played for forty five minutes. Over a thousand people walked past him, but only seven stopped to listen. A few days later, 20 minutes away, in Bethesda, Maryland, Bell played to a sold out crowd of 2000 people, who each paid over a hundred bucks to see him. So what happened in that Metro station? Well, it’s obvious, right? All these people with their suits and briefcases… They’re all Cardi B fans. And they ain’t stopping for Mozart. 😉 Either that… or there’s something janky about how people decide what they like. Clearly, when someone pays 150 bucks to see this guy play the violin, what they’re buying is not about the sound of the music. So what’s it about? Well, here are some clues. One day, when Bell was four years old, he found a bunch of rubber bands. He stretched them around the handles of his nine dresser drawers and he started plucking them . It was music that he’d heard his mom play on the piano. The next day, he got his first violin. At age 14, he played as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra. A few days after his 17th birthday, he made it to Carnegie Hall. The violin he played in that Metro station is the Gibson Ex Huberman Stradivarius. A hundred years ago, it belonged to a guy in Israel named Bronislaw Huberman. This guy saw what was coming as Hitler rose to power, and— with help from a bunch of celebrities, including Albert Einstein— he founded the Israel Philharmonic. He did this so he could recruit Jewish musicians from Germany, Austria and Poland. By getting them out before the Nazis took over, he saved over a thousand lives. The violin was made by Antonio Stradivari—the greatest violin maker to ever live. He made it in 1713 during his “Golden Period,” after 50 years of refining his technique… …at a point when he had access to the finest woods—Italian Spruce, Maple and Willow. Now, if those thousand people who walked past Joshua Bell had known all these details, would things have been different? Hell, yeah! They would have shut down the Metro stop. There’s a quote I love from Seth Godin. He says, “marketing is no longer about the stuff you make but about the stories you tell.” The story of the boy genius with the violin that saved a thousand lives in the Holocaust… that story is what sells out concert halls. Simon Sinek talks about this idea in what I believe is one of the greatest presentations ever given. If you haven’t seen his TED talk, go watch it right now. Seriously. His Golden Circle has launched a movement. And it’s changed how we all think. Now you hear people everywhere talk about their “why”. That didn’t happen before Simon Sinek. Here’s a quote from him that sums up how the concept applies to marketing: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Almost everyone accepts this now. Apple’s “why” is to shake things up. Their “how” is with easy-to-use beautifully designed products. And their “what” is all the stuff they make—computers, phones, tablets, whatever. The “why” is the only part that speaks to our limbic brains, which is where gut decisions are made. And the reality is… ALL the decisions we make are gut decisions. (We just sometimes justify them after the fact with rational arguments.) So back to Joshua Bell… Almost no one wanted to hear him play for free in the Metro station, but thousands of people make the decision to pay 150 bucks to hear him play in a concert hall. Where is that decision being made? Well, definitely not in the neocortex, where all of our rational, analytical thinking happens. But is it a gut decision people make to go be in this man’s presence? Or is it something even deeper? The answer to this depends on whether you believe humans are spiritual beings. Now, this question has nothing to do with religion. For most of my life, I’ve been an atheist—or at least agnostic— but I absolutely believe that there’s more to our existence than we can understand. And I believe we’re all connected in a way that goes far beyond what we say or do. If you’re skeptical, consider this question: when you feel a connection with another person—a real connection— do you feel that in your gut or in your heart? I was with someone for twenty two years and—all the way through it— my gut told me it was right. The problem is I wasn’t listening to my heart. There is a deeper level than the gut. Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle needs another layer. If the gut corresponds to why, what does the heart correspond to? Here’s what I say: People are driven to buy expensive tickets to see Joshua Bell in person BY THEIR HEARTS… …and their hearts feel a connection to WHO JOSHUA BELL IS. It’s not about WHY he makes music or HOW he does it. And—as proven in the DC Metro–it’s not about WHAT the music is. It’s about WHO he is. People connect with him on a human level. When Kobe Bryant died, the collective pain felt by millions of people was overwhelming. It was proof of the intensity of the connection that people felt with him. Kobe connected to people’s hearts— and there’s no deeper connection you can have with someone than to their heart. We all know this happens between human beings. But can companies and brands connect with people’s hearts? Of course they can! Just look at Nike and Apple. There’s no denying that people feel connected with both of these brands right here. It’s the same kind of connection that exists between two people who love each other. For their avid fans, the brand comes to life, has a personality, values, quirks… everything a person has. The fans relate to them on a human level. These few exceptional brands go beyond WHY. For that reason, they have the most loyal fans, and they’ll probably be around hundreds—or maybe thousands—of years into the future. Now here’s what I want you to think about: Marketing has always been about breaking through… and connecting with your target audience, but the level of noise and competition that exists now… requires that we think about it in a whole new way. What if every one of us—from this point forward—decided… we will communicate with others… about our brands, our products and ourselves… in a way that touches their hearts? How do you think that would turn out?