Telos: A forgotten term that’s handy for marketers

19 January, 2023

In my baseball days, I’d stand at bat and repeat the word “patience” in my head. It was a little reminder that helped me perform at my best.

Here’s a handy word to repeat if you want to succeed with marketing: telos. It’s short for the Ancient Greek word, “teleology.” Telos describes something’s purpose. You’d use it in a sentence like this: “The telos of a pen is to write.”

Telos is controversial, especially with scientists. You see, telos invokes the idea of destiny, and saying that a pen has a destiny makes scientists uncomfortable.

For our purposes? We don’t care if telos is real. Humans act as if it’s real, and that’s all that matters.

Because science will give you a physical description of an object. But telos tells you that object’s reason for being.

And humans are always asking that second question: “What’s this object for? What’s its purpose?”

So keep the term “telos” in mind when doing marketing. It’s a little reminder to always frame things in a way your customer will care about.

About the Author

Billy Broas

Billy is the founder of The Five Lightbulbs®.

He got into marketing his late 20's, when he left his career at an engineering company to run his online business. He’s consulted on messaging to top entrepreneurs, including Tiago Forte, Ryan Deiss, and Leila Gharani.

Billy lives in San Diego with his wife, their two children, and an abundance of tasty Mexican food.

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