Reinventing Velcro: The Importance of Brand Simplicity

Akin to the concept of white space and minimalism in design, simplicity of brand representation is the right direction to go in order to increase your market share. Simple is better. Your company knows it, your brand should show it, and your customer is desperate for anything that makes his life easier.

Ironically, there are several definitions of simplicity. Simplicity can be defined as being simple or uncompounded, the absence of pretense, the freedom from difficulty or hardship, the lack of ornamentation, or the quality of being natural or based on natural principles. Each one of these definitions holds the key to what today’s consumer desires: a better way. Clearly, brands that embody simplicity are more likely to hold a place of honor within the mind of the consumer because the brand appears to humble itself in order to communicate a larger message to the consumer rather than merely putting itself on a pedestal.

Simplicity should reveal itself through a few different sources. A brand’s name, personality, identity, themeline, and appearance are all capable of exuding the peace of mind of simplicity. At times it can be as subtle as the well-organized color palette on a website or the clean outside of a building that can make the difference to the consumer.

In a technologically advanced, fast-paced, and complex market place, simplicity would appear to be anything but the answer we seek for our brands, which is exactly why the opportunity is wide open. Gifts, gadgets, and special offerings are a dime a dozen, and more often than not, the customer is looking to avoid any extra “junk” at the point of decision. Consumer decisions are comparable to checking email. You look for what you know and what you trust to be true before even considering “the others.”

Simplicity has become as apparent in research responses as other brand elements such as control, options, and even price. There is not one industry in the market that cannot use simplicity to its advantage. For example, Stealing Share completed brand work for a large utility company who needed to find a more specific brand focus. While we conducted behavior modeling within the company and quantitative market research in the field, we discovered how crucial of a role simplicity played in this utility market. In this particular case, the brand needed to ensure the customer that he would “never run out” and that he could be secure in the fact that the company would make the process easy and painless. Certainly there were price issues and a few other market trends that were addressed, but one of the main principles this company was missing in its strategy was simplicity.

One of the pitfalls with associating brand with the “simple is better” mentality is the common error of companies misinterpreting simple as staple. For example, simplicity is also becoming more and more prevalent in the banking industry as banking quickly becomes more and more of a retail domain. Banks often view simplicity as convenience. While convenience is an important aspect of banking (i.e. ATMs, drive thru tellers, many branches…etc), convenience is expected of any bank anywhere. What is not expected from the consumer is the strength of the brand itself. If the brand represents the simplicity they value, the table stakes of ATMS and branches fade away, and the bank has a customer for life. Furthermore, many customers are at risk of switching financial institutions due to unnecessary complexities in process and identity.

What can be done to simplify your brand? The first step is a deep, dispassionate analysis of your brand as it currently exists. What does it mean to the customer? Is it difficult for them to use or understand? These are questions for upper management and executives to consider as they look to grow their companies and increase market share. In short, the first step is to look in the mirror and identify what stands in the way of efficacy. Any obstacle observed internally will surely be magnified by the outside consumer because they do not possess the same knowledge of your business. Assume nothing about your customers until you make the honest effort to understand them. It is within the belief systems of the customer that your brand will find the opportunity to simplify your brand. The first step could be as easy as changing an acronym.

Once your brand recognizes what it needs to do in order to make it more approachable for the consumer, you need to make sure you can generalize this process to your entire brand execution. For example, if you are a consumer product, you need to be sure your display, brand name, themeline, website, and marketing materials all work to provide a better avenue for your target audience. Like most marketing communication endeavors, this is easier said than done, but before the physical changes can be made to your product and to your brand, you must be sure you have the right perspective, the perspective of the customer.

Molly Sunderdick
Brand Strategist

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