Simplicity is key. Simplicity is everything. Simplicity is the key to success. But what should brands work towards simplifying? Is it how they are marketed? Is it about the positioning platforms that are selected? Is it about a brand’s purpose and values? Or is it about a brand’s whole identity?

Most (if not all) of the above questions are interrelated. Simplification will run as a common thread through them. So it is a perfectly feasible exercise to simplify a brand’s purpose and values, adopt positioning platforms that are simple to comprehend and use marketing strategies that can get the brand message across in a simple way. But completing the loop is important because if one stage does not lead to the other, the whole exercise is a waste.

The most powerful and successful brands adopt simplicity as a core aspect of their strategy. From the likes of Nike (“Just Do It”) to Audi (“Vorsprung dutch Technik”), brands that have been able to endure and compete in changing times, simplicity has been a core asset of their strategy.

But simplicity does not need to be boring. Here is what UK based drinks brand Innocent have to say about a simple strategy, which is not boring, because it is meant to attract young consumers:

In Siegel+Gale’s Global Simplicity Index 2015, supermarket chain Aldi took the top rank, followed by Google, by another supermarket Lidl, then Netflix and McDonald’s to round out the Top 5. More here:

Why supermarket chains Aldi and Lidl are in the top, when we generally associate supermarkets with proliferation of brands and products, confusing aisles, equally confusing (and sometimes treacherous) discounts & promotions and metaphorical / confusing advertising? The reason for Aldi and Lidl to gain top spot was driven by their store experience, which is the most direct and impactful way of translating a simple brand strategy. What about the brand experience – Uncomplicated offers, easy to navigate store layouts, low prices and unambiguous advertising.

Why is Google up there? Again because there is no brouhaha around what the brand is trying to achieve. It is about making a profound and transformative change to our lives through the use of advanced technology. How did Netflix manage to get into the Top 5? The brand proposition is simple – find anything that you want to watch anywhere. Their series of “Originals” programming has been a huge hit. The brand has transformed the way we watch video content and has the potential to disrupt the role of television as the primary purveyor of video.

The important question to ask is if brands like Google and Netflix who operate at the forefront of advanced technology and brands like Aldi and Lidl who stock thousands of products in their stores can get the “simple” equation right, why can’t other brands?

Complication (or even for that matter over complication) starts when a brand does not know what it stands for and what benefit it is providing or what problem it is solving? We can link back complication to a muddled set of brand values and purpose.

“If a brand has absolute clarity on why it has taken birth, then simplicity is a defining characteristic of that state of being.”

Another factor that adds layers of complexity to a brand’s positioning and communication is the desire to experiment with multiple media platforms without ascertaining brand fit, target consumer and effectiveness. It is undoubtedly difficult to communicate the simplicity of your brand if the media channels range from a 60″ TV ad to a rolling video in a social media feed to a 10″ video that self-destructs to a glossy centre spread in a lifestyle magazine. More touch points you have in your brand’s distribution and marketing channels, harder it is to maintain and convey simplicity.

This article from VentureBeat outlines in detail who marketing strategy in itself has become more and more complicated:

Brands should start off simple and remain on the path of simplicity. It is defined by the choice of colours, images, words, video, audio and communication of a brand’s marketing and advertising strategy. It is also defined by a brand’s intention to communicate in a clear simple manner. It is also characterised by a brand’s desire to stay true to its course and vision.

Under Armour’s strategy to establish itself in golf follows some of the above principles. More here:

In this Inc. piece on the 10 most compelling ad campaigns of the decade….

….there is a clear thread that defines simplicity. Do not adopt or use flashy advertising elements. From Burberry’s “Art of the Trench” to Red Bull’s “Stratos”, each campaign epitomises the core of the brand. It links to what I earlier mentioned about having uncomplicated brand purpose. If your purpose is clear, whatever you do or create to support it will have simplicity.

The biggest challenge that brands face today is about getting irrelevant. Consumers do not understand their brand choices anymore as they are bewildered. They receive too many marketing message than they can handle. They have attention spans shorter than a goldfish. There is too much of branded content and influencer marketing going on. There are too many screens of varying sizes that try to capture our attention. We have a constant desire for swiping, clicking, zooming, sharing and buzzing. We stumble on stairs and escalators, we almost get run over on the road and we slowdown the masses through our dedicated screen time. We need simplicity. We need brands to tell us that this is the benefit they are providing at this price, and without the T&Cs, the asterisks, the small print, the new advertising words and meaningless grovel.

Photo courtesy: Alexander Baxevanis



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