Nicola Watts
The Value Of Simplicity

Brands that embrace simplicity are more profitable, have greater customer loyalty and employee engagement.

What does simplicity mean? It means being uncomplicated, free from pretence or guile, easy to understand and without unnecessary embellishments.

Why is this important? According to Siegel+Gale who recently published their seventh annual Global Brand Simplicity Index™ brands that embrace simplicity are simply more profitable than those who don’t!

The most successful consumer-facing brands all share this single characteristic. As defined by Siegal+Gale, simplicity is ‘easy to understand’, ‘transparent and honest’, ‘making customers feel valued’, ‘innovative and fresh’ and ‘useful’. Simple brands make life easy, they make it easy to purchase them, and provide an uncomplicated post-purchase experience that maintains and reinforces the brand customer experience.

Every day we face more choices, technology evolves even faster, and the world around us becomes increasingly unpredictable. But we’re still primitive creatures at heart; we prefer life to be straightforward and undemanding. We want things to function quickly and easily without much effort. When confronted with complex or difficult buying decisions, we revert to our primitive instincts of fight or flight. In this case, flight wins, as we decide it’s far too complicated to be worthwhile and we abandon ship! We want products that require no effort, little thought that work intuitively or with simple guidelines.

In its seventh year, the study is based on an online survey of more than 14,000 respondents across nine countries: US, UK, Germany, Sweden, Mainland China, Japan, India and UAE and Saudi Arabia. Respondents rated 857 brands and 25 industries on their perceived simplicity and how industries and brands make people’s lives simpler or more complex!

The findings are compelling:

  • Simplicity earns a premium: 64% of consumers are willing to pay more for simpler experiences.
  • Simplicity builds loyalty: 61% of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand because it’s simple.
  • Simplicity pays: A stock portfolio of the simplest global brands outperforms the major indexes by 433%.
  • Simplicity inspires: 62% of employees at simple companies are brand champions compared to a paltry 20% at more complex companies.

If that’s not convincing enough, then here’s some behavioural science — specifically, loss aversion bias. $86 billion is being left on the table when brands don’t simplify!

For the fourth year in a row, Aldi is regarded as the simplest brand. Why? For starters, they have a consistent store layout, a smaller footprint than competitors, and stock less products per category, limiting choice and making it easy to find required products, easy to decide what to buy, and easy to actually buy it. Sounds practical, but they also deliver on their uncomplicated promise of high quality products at affordable prices – what’s not to love about that!

The global bottom 10 is perhaps not that surprising; if you’ve ever been a customer, you know how complex and irritating they all can be:

86 is Budget, 87 is Ryanair, 88 is HSBC, 89 is Hertz, 90 is MetLife, 91 is AVIS, 92, LinkedIn, 93 is Bupa, 94 is Aviva and 95 is Axa for the second year running!

For sure, the majority have complex operating models due to regulations, but they are all wide open for disruption by someone who can figure out how to provide a transparent and straightforward customer experience. As a customer, I say bring it on.

The top three industries that are globally felt to be the most simple are led by internet search at number one, which is leaps and bounds ahead of the number two, internet retail, and number three, retail/grocery.

In the US and UK, respondents were also asked their thoughts on brands regarded to be ‘disrupters’ who have concentrated in simplifying their customers experiences as their raison d’être and point of difference.

The US top three were Dollar Shave Club (bought by Unilever for $1 billion in July last year), GrubHub and Square. The UK top three were OVO Energy, City Mapper and Shazam.

What can you learn from these brands? Ask yourself some hard questions.

1) Can your brand values, proposition and personality be described easily?

2) Does your product make people’s life easier or more complicated?

3) Is it easy for your customers to ask questions or get support?

4) Can you identify, reduce or remove the pain points in your customer’s interaction with you?

5) Are you actually useful to your customers?

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