MindFire Communications, Inc.
Keeping it simple
June 19, 2012 | Lynn Manternach, Ph.D.

I’m a former TV news writer. A big part of my job was to communicate complex concepts as simply as possible. After my TV news adventures, I focused on obtaining a Ph.D. There, it seemed my job was to communicate complex concepts as complexly as possible.

Between the two, I prefer the simple approach.

The simple approach (not to be confused with simplistic) is powerful. People see their lives as increasingly complicated. Brands that can position themselves as the simple alternative will have an edge on many levels.

Build a simple brand story. If you can’t describe your product or service in one simple sentence, you won’t be able to sell it and you won’t be able to effectively market it.

Your brand story needs to be so simple and clear that anyone can understand it and remember it. If you can’t articulate your brand clearly and simply, your employees are not going to be able to understand and remember it, and that means your consumers will never get it.

The more complicated your messaging and approach, the more people will tune you out. If you don’t make your brand simple – simple to understand, simple to compare to others, simple to buy – you lose.

Simple branding is profitable branding. Siegel+Gale recently published the results of their research on the Global Brand Simplicity Index. The index measures a brand’s level of simplicity in terms of what it brings to the customer through its products, and in the way it interacts with the brand at purchase with customer service, etc.
Many of the simplest global brands are in the fast food and retail sectors. The top 10, according to the Siegel+Wade research include: McDonalds, Nokia, Amazon.com, KFC, Burger King, Walmart, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Boots and Subway.

What do these big brands do to simplify branding and the perception of their products? They communicate directly, clearly and without jargon. Interactions with them are simple and clear. They make sure consumers have easy access to their products. Their value proposition focuses on reducing consumer stress by saving time, money or other valuable resources.

Consumers buy brands that make it simple for them. A recent worldwide survey of 7,000 consumers by the Corporate Executive Board (http://hbr.org/2012/05/to-keep-your-customers-keep-it-simple/ar/pr) showed consumers are overwhelmed by the volume of choices and information they are exposed to, as well as the relentless efforts of marketers to engage with them.

The Corporate Executive Board study found that the best tool for measuring consumer-engagement efforts is the "decision-simplicity index.” The index measures how easy it is for consumers to gather and understand information about a brand, how much they can trust the information they find, and how readily they can weight their options. The easier a brand makes the purchase-decision journey, the higher its decision-simplicity score.
Brands that score in the top quarter of the decision-simplicity index were 86% more likely than those in the bottom quarter to be purchased by the consumers considering them. They were 9% more likely to be repurchased and 115% more likely to be recommended to others.

Simple builds trust. Customers are looking for a reason to trust brands, and a simple approach is generally perceived as more authentic. If you can keep it real, honest and simple, you are better positioned to earn trust from new and loyal customers.

Most consumers are emotional buyers. Your brand has to be simple and powerful enough to connect with a consumer emotionally. Logic plays a role, but for most consumers logic is secondary to emotion in the decision process. Your simple and focused brand approach is the piece that gets consumers to the data they need to justify their emotional buying decision.

The benefits of simple are huge. Unfortunately, making things simple is not easy. It takes a lot of time and effort to understand the big picture well enough to simplify it. But once you understand the essence of your brand and how to communicate it simply to employees and consumers, and make it easy for others to interact with your brand, you have a huge advantage over competitors. Because simple is so very rare.

This column originally appeared in the Corridor Business Journal.


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