Walking through the streets of any modern city it’s pretty hard to escape the landscape of big brand adverts and endless marketing messages that assault our senses. They dazzle, entertain, intrude and fascinate; on buses, in the street, on our devices, in our homes, on social media, at the cinema. But as we wade through the sea of an estimated 5,000 brands every day (according to SJ Insights), we’re asking why some brands shine with simplicity and brilliance, and why others are drowning in an overcrowded market place.
This year US branding firm Siegel+Gale launched the sixth annual Global Brand Simplicity Index. The report demonstrates Siegel+Gale’s goal: to find and defend brand simplicity. They believe simplicity should be “the centrepiece of brand strategy to successfully reveal the unique truths of an organisation and connect brands with their audiences.”
The report includes a break-down of the best received brands this year, brands that cleverly weave their ways into our lives, those that disrupt and shake-up a saturated and stagnant market, and the brands that do ‘simple’ best. Among the best are budget supermarkets, online search engines, fast food restaurants, global furniture chains, hotels and online film and video providers.
The millennial generation has more choice and higher expectations
Brands back in the day
But before we look at who’s doing great things now, let’s go back 100 years and take a look at the brands that dominated in the early 20th century. Scholl, Coleman’s Mustard, Nivea, Coca-Cola, Wrigley’s and Heinz, were all household names as well as household products. These days, household products still have their place in our lives, but they’re not dominating nearly as much – it’s an interesting and telling tale of how society has developed. 100 years on, the millennial generation has more choice and higher expectations, so inherently seeks a more evolved product that offers more stimulation.
Without conversations brands won’t be talked about, without entertainment brands won’t be liked
Consumers in today’s world are more demanding in general. Not only is there more choice but we’re also better connected and so we demand more from all aspects of life: relationships, friendships, services as well as our favourite brands. According to the Simplicity Index, today’s consumers tend to show more interest in brands that provide an element of entertainment, dialogue, innovation, value and above all simplicity.
The nature of today’s brand market means that without a social media presence brands will be unknown, without conversations brands won’t be talked about, without entertainment brands won’t be liked, and without a simple and straightforward product, with an identifiable brand personality, brands won’t be chosen above competitors.
Siegel+Gale asked thousands of consumers in several countries in various regions what they thought of the brands they recognise and regularly come into contact with. 12,000 consumers filled in the online questionnaire, answering questions about brands within specific industries plus their usage and perceptions of social media, including their perceived simplicity of various platforms.
Topics also included consumer experiences and opinions of brands. The survey asked respondents to observe the simplicity or complexity of a brand’s communications, and if they’d be willing to pay more for brands that provided simpler experiences.
69% will recommend a brand if it’s simple – 63% will pay more for simplicity
Among many interesting statistics the report found that indeed 69% will recommend a brand if it’s simple. And 63% will pay more for simplicity. Being easy to understand, transparent, innovative, fresh and useful, Lidl, Google, Netflix, Burger King, Ikea, McDonald’s and KFC all found their way into the global top 10! And it’s worth mentioning that not only are brands like Aldi and Lidl scoring well in terms of simplicity, they’re winning market share in the UK, too.
Obviously there are some industries that cannot help but be complex and among the most complex global brands were two of the biggest health insurance companies, AXA and Bupa. It’s understandable to some extent, insurance isn’t an easy concept to grasp, but look hard enough and there are always ways of finding the ‘simple’ within the complex.
British Airways did better than ever this year, portraying their brand as simple and accessible, but rival airline Ryanair faced a challenging reception, proving that the industry isn’t always the differentiator. It’s the product, the personality, the values behind the brand and the simplicity of it all rolled into one.
Another interesting category in the report highlights brands that have given their industry an aggressive side-tackle! Ranked top as industry disrupters, this quite simply means these are relatively new brands that have reimagined an industry: their product saves time, provides a great service and empowers people. Top ranked was Dollar Shave Club reimagining the male grooming industry, Warby Parker for spectacles and lenses, and Uber in transport. Their business concepts are trendy, innovative and just make sense – it makes you wonder what we’ve been doing all these years!
What can you do?
So if you want your brand to stand out, people need to understand it in a heartbeat and the key to that is to keep it simple. What can we learn about simplicity from these leading brands? Ask yourself these questions:
- Can people describe your brand personality, values and product with ease?
If not, it’s the job of your brand manager to break it down. So many organisations have grown so big and are so global that it’s hard to consolidate their offering in a few words. If your brand can’t be explained with ease down the pub, it’s likely to become extinct within the next decade.
- Does your brand have a clearly identified social media strategy?
It was found that one of the primary reasons people use social media is to find new sources of entertainment. Studies therefore show that brands that entertain before they sell see more success. Getting noticed on social media is important but equally important is not to annoy users or disrupt their journey. YouTube ranked highest for adverts disrupting the experience of using the product. Still, YouTube manage to rank at number 8 on the global scale – but where will they be next year?
- Can your customers ask questions or seek support with ease?
Many brands are using social media platforms for customer service, something that more established brands with their customer service call centres might need to catch up on soon. It makes sense because, let’s face it, Facebook is where most people enjoy conversing with other people these days.
- Does your product make life easier or more complicated?
It’s not just your marketing strategy and brand identity that need to be simple, the product does too. This is another reason why insurance companies may need to work a little harder. While creating a simple insurance proposition isn’t impossible, it’s certainly more challenging than for a burger restaurant or chicken shop. The user experience needs to be straightforward. We lead busy lives and don’t have time for the small print anymore.
Simplicity is about the way brand experience and user experience sit together in harmony. Can you answer the above questions with confidence? If not, there’s so much you can do and it can start straight away. It might be worth grabbing your executive team for a coffee, asap!