What’s in it for me (WIFM)?

A few years ago I co-wrote a book with Dr John Harrison, a fellow panellist on The Hidden Persuaders, a radio segment that appears every Tuesday morning on Brisbane ABC Radio 612.

With a touch of irreverence we purloined from the Christian Bible the opening sentence of The Gospel According to St John.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Our sad attempt at plagiarism went like this:
In the beginning there was the word. And the word was WIFM. The people began to apply the word to the things that were most important in their lives – Nike, Coke, McDonalds, iPods and Apple, Google, and Facebook.

Steve Austin, the host of mornings on ABC Radio 612, a man with strong Christian beliefs, later gave me a copy of the King James Bible to mark a birthday milestone. In his card he referred me to the relevant chapter. He made no direct reference to our irreverence, but I got the point.

In our defence I can only say that our intent was deliberate.
I was raised a Christian in the Anglican church and still believe I uphold the fundamentals of their teachings. Unfortunately, I’m also a realist and recognise, after years spent in the advertising game, the emergence of consumerism as a stronger driver for many people than the Christian faith. (John Lennon was stating the facts when he declared the Beatles had more followers than Christ, not a statement of ego.)

In the book we continued to build our case, that WIFM was the word.
And so it came to pass that the word became the mantra by which everyone existed and by which all decisions were made.

And the prophets – the marketing gurus and the communications seers – all said it was so, and developed their strategies to spread the word far and wide. And the meaning of the word was stunningly simple:

What’s in it for me? WIFM.

At its very core ‘What’s in it for me’ recognises the unavoidable truth that every decision you make, every offer you consider, every choice you are presented with has, at its absolute foundation, that simple proposition. Because every decision you make has a potential impact on you!

And before you jump down my throat with accusations of disgraceful, self-centred selfishness, the context of ‘What’s in it for me’ is much broader than YOU!

Decisions you take are automatically broadened to encompass, family, friends, work, even your country when the impact of your decisions encroaches on their needs.

The question is, how does this knowledge help you?

Simply put, if you can understand the ‘What’s in it for me’ question of your customers, then you have moved a significant way down the path of turning that understanding into a powerful brand.

Allan Bonsall
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