(This article on the Golden Circle is the second part of our analysis of the 2016 KPMG study “Banking the Customer Experience Dividend” )

The Golden Circle is a logical way of thinking that questions the legitimacy of the brand. It encourages us to review our relations with customers, prospects and employees. Why is Apple such an incredible success? Why has Keytrade Bank outstripped the major Belgian banking players? Why did Kodak almost disappear? Ultimately, why has the consumer become the consumactor (and changed from consumer to prosumer)?

Probably because some companies have decided to ask themselves a single question. Why?

Why do it? Why say it? Why join? This is what we will demonstrate in this article, also explaining how this question can be objectified via Emolytics’ emotional statistics.

The Golden Circle Approach

Simon Sinek (2012) has developed a theory (The Golden Circle) based on this question. According to him, any company, institution or administration should ask three fundamental questions. They will seem obvious and yet …

These are the questions:

  • The first is What? What type of activity, what products, services, advice, …
  • The second is How?: By what means, what procedures, what sales networks does the company use for its products, services, advice, …
  • And the last is Why? Why maintain a presence in a particular market, for what purpose and above all with what legitimacy? In other words, to make what and for whom, to say what and to whom, to join what and for what reason?


These three questions follow each other logically. They can be answered by going from what to why. Or, conversely, by going from why to what. Sinek demonstrates that the direction in which you ask the questions is fundamental.

In effect, a vast majority of companies go from what to why. And this is precisely their fundamental error, because in this way they are not in a purchasing process (focused on their client), but a sales process (centered on the company). They don’t care about their customers’ desire to buy what they have to offer (products and services), so much as their need to sell such products and services to the customers. They haven’t adopted the “The Golden Circle” approach.

Keytrade Bank, from challenger to reference

We are going to illustrate this error with an example, linked to the banking sector, that of Keytrade Bank.

However, first we are going to take a brief detour via our benchmark study “Banking the Customer Experience Dividend” by KPMG. It highlights a revealing insight, which is actually a new paradigm that will require banks to move from a “sell more” position to a “deliver more” position.


(Source: KPMG: Banking the Customer Experience Dividend)

Each point within this paradigm defines exactly why Keytrade Bank is so successful because each one is an expression of “The Golden Circle” questions.

In 1998, Keytrade Bank (originally VMS Keytrade) became the first online bank in Belgium. At first glance it was a crazy idea, because investing in the stock market was something already offered by a lot of other more legitimate and more powerful players. And yet, they were immediately successful. Thousands of Belgians agreed to give a young bank come out of nowhere the responsibility for their stock portfolio (in whole or in part). The question is obviously: Why?

The answer is very simple. Keytrade Bank had nothing to sell that was better than the others, but on the other hand, it positioned itself in a way that was totally different to the rest of the market. They gave access to the stock exchanges of the whole world to amateurs and people with small portfolios. They streamlined processes (everything could be done online), supported customers and, above all, made opening an investment account with drastically reduced brokerage fees accessible to everyone.

If you refer to the Golden Circle’s three questions, this is how they might have answered them:

  • Why: Keytrade Bank, a bank for people who dare (still their current claim). To be daring is to be uninhibited, listening, open, available. Exactly what a lot of small portfolio owners were waiting for in a closed environment aimed at experts.
  • How: No agency, just a simple online platform, scalable, and with support
  • What: The classic products and services of the stock market but accessible to all, and cheaply.

Keytrade had nothing to sell that was better than its competitors – it was a powerful digital tool, but it was not the only one. On the other hand, right from the start, its positioning strategy focused on the why (why they existed). And consequently was centered on the user, their clients.

We could sum it up by saying: “I have nothing particularly innovative to sell you, but on the other hand I suggest you buy in, join up to the desire to be part of those privileged people who invest in the stock market. Simply, easily and cheaply. ”

The bank made an appeal to the emotions. Those of envy and the desire to belong. Nowadays, Keytrade customers are significantly emotionally attached to their bank. Brand loyalty is far higher than that associated with the Belgian Big 4 (ING, BNP Fortis, KBC / CBC, DEXIA), who are, nonetheless, far more powerful. In only 20 years they have gone from being the challenger to being the reference. The founders of Keytrade Bank clearly adopted the logic of Simon Sinek’s, The Golden Circle.

How can you use Emolytics to objectify the why, how and what?

Emolytics is a statistical tool that allows you to work these three dimensions continuously, in a simple, scientific and objective way.

We will illustrate this through the data of a typical web site (see tables below). They are exemplative of the different insights you can gain when using the logic of “The Golden Circle”. They also show the need to question the legitimacy of the communication channels used. Emolytics’ platform allows you to make this reflection.

  1. “What “: Which page is responsive, effective, ineffective, which day of the week causes a particular reaction, what is the socio-demographic profile of respondents, what are the most effective channels, what content generates a lot of reactions, etc.



The tables above show which emotions are primarily expressed in terms of age for a given site (top left table top). The same exercise can be done for gender (top right table).

When the two results are superimposed, some interesting insights are revealed. The site in question is obviously very efficient (high Emoscore) for ages 20-29 and 30-39. Whichever gender. On the other hand, beyond 39 some sensitive areas appear, which increase with age, especially for women (25% are irritated, confused or bored).

So now we have an answer to “What” and “Who”. But still not to “Why”. We’ll get this thanks to an analysis of the insights given by the users.

2. “How“: which digital channel (or not) do they come from, how long do they stay, within a defined channel how do they express themselves, etc.


So let’s continue the analysis – how do my users come to my site? And how is the Emoscore distributed depending on the channel (top left chart) and the device (top right chart)?

We can quickly see that the most satisfied are those that come from organic searches, direct traffic and brand campaigns, on the other hand, the most irritated come from social networks and paid campaigns (SEA type). Similarly, the most irritated are found among desktop users and the most interested in the tablet users. As the differences are small, these interpretations need to be qualified.

But, why don’t paid campaigns and social networks produce satisfactory results? We still do not know that. Moreover, is it an effective channel or is it simply useful for this brand?

Note: We can also differentiate the total population having visited the site from the one that participated in the Emolytics survey. In this case it was 4,613 respondents from an overall traffic of about 20,000 visits. The results are thus highly statistically significant, given the high rate of participation compared to overall traffic

3. “Why”: The Emoscore (an emotional performance indicator) is what best expresses the balance between the legitimacy of the company (the reason for its presence) and the positive / negative emotions experienced by users (their response to this presence).

Let’s go back to our example: We saw sensitivities with regard to certain age groups, gender and some of the digital channels used to communicate. The questions that need to be asked now is: Why do users come to this site? What are their objectives? And, is the site is in line with these objectives?


If the site’s priorities are to enable the discovery of products, services or pricing, then the objective is clearly achieved (table above, left). This is also confirmed when looking at the digital channels used (table above, right). So, we know what visitors are looking for on the site, and which channels are the most effective, based on the aforesaid objectives.

But is the content strategy, which is obviously strategic, up to user expectations (table below)?


This is at the heart of “Why”. We know exactly why visitors endorse content (simple, clear, relevant, high quality, …) but also the weaknesses which need to be corrected (content hard to find, too much content, content not always relevant…). On this basis, it is possible to improve the information available, even though we see that the majority of visitors are satisfied.

If we now superimpose the goal of the visit (the user’s “why”) and its source (where did they come from), we have a meaningful picture of the strengths (in green) and sensitivities (in red) of the logic of the site content and the digital communication tools used (see table below).



Using Simon Sinek’s concept of The Golden Circle, we wanted to demonstrate the importance of focusing upstream on “why” and then going toward “what”.

This approach should prevail in any search for meaning, because the legitimacy of the presence of a brand or institution primarily depends on the answer to this question: to make what and with whom, to say what and to whom, to join what and for whom (as a consumer, partner, employee)?

Now that this methodology has been established, in the next part of our dossier we will develop the concept of a digital ecosystem, which is implicitly linked to Sinek’s concept because it is intimately linked to the users’ experience. It is central to the debate, the cornerstone of any digital ecosystem. And yet … it is often overlooked.


Etienne Gonsette is a Psychologist, analyst and digital auditor for over 20 year, he worked as a digital strategist for numerous Belgian and international companies. He works as Business Developper at Emolytics.

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