5 Whys Technique


The purpose of the 5 Whys technique is to identify the root cause of a problem. This technique was originally developed at the Toyota Motor Corporation in the 1950s as a way to improve manufacturing processes. It has since been adopted in different forms and in different fields as a way to iteratively interrogate a problem. In marketing, 5 Whys is often used as a way to identify customer insights. Often, marketers rely on facts and observations rather than insights into what fundamentally motivates customer behaviour. The 5 Whys forces marketers to dig deeper by challenging early assumptions and conclusions.


What did we learn from this experience that we can use in the future?


  1. For marketers using 5 Whys to understand customer motivation, begin by identifying the specific customer choice or behaviour you are interrogating. What exactly do you want deeper insight into?
  2. Review this customer choice or behaviour and ask yourself “why is this happening?” Identify the different causes for this action. Select the primary cause based on your best facts and knowledge.
  3. Consider this cause, and again ask yourself “why is this happening?” and write down the primary cause. Repeat this step 3 more times, or at the point where you are no longer able to identify useful causes.
  4. Review the final cause that you have identified to see if it is a useful customer insight. Does this capture a customer’s motivation in a way that will help your marketing? If not, repeat the previous step.
  5. Finally, stress test your work by reviewing your 5 Whys reverse. For each cause, ask yourself “does this happen when this happens?” This will help ensure that symptoms and causes are separate and aligned.


  • If you identify different causes worth exploring, capture as branches connected to your originating statement.
  • The number 5 is purely anecdotal, ask “why” as many times as you need to arrive at a useful insight.
  • A useful insight is relevant to your brand, differentiated from your competitors, and actionable for your marketing.‍


The 5 Whys was created by Taiichi Ohno, Former Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Corporation


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