The Best Brands Are Simple

Siegel+Gale, a well-known brand strategy, customer experience and design-consulting group, recently published the 2012 results of the annual Global Brand Simplicity Index. The results are based on how simple – or complex – consumers perceive their interactions with various brands and industries to be. Brands can compare themselves to the competition based on their geographical region or activities.

The study’s most striking finding is that simple brands demonstrate the best stock performance. Which global brands are the simplest? In order: Google, McDonald’s, IKEA, C&A and Apple.

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We figured as much, but now the index gives us proof. The daily struggle between brands and product leaders should logically be how to simplify their offering. But on the contrary, far too often the trend is to make things more complicated, to manage exceptions, or even to seek out niche markets by creating artificial variants of the same product or service. This might seem contradictory, but to be simple and stay that way is actually proving to be the most complicated thing to do. It’s not by chance that two of the top five brands, Google and Apple, are from the digital milieu and are obsessed with the comfort of their users and the utility of their updates. When they don’t succeed, however, those responsible are sought out at a higher level, as demonstrated by the recent firing of iOS boss Scott Forstall after the new iOS 6 Maps fiasco.

French writer Saint-Exupéry understood this perfectly, “It seems that perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove.” It takes determined people at the helm of these companies to keep an eye on things by championing permanent innovation that doesn’t hinder the customer’s understanding of the product. There is little doubt as to what the brand index leaders are or aren’t doing, how they operate or how much they cost.

Conversely, if we look at the fine print for a “low cost” holiday provider, somewhere between taxes, surcharges, ancillary costs and schedules, who really knows how much one is paying for a trip? Who really understands what Google+ is for? How does Groupon work? What do insurance companies really sell? As the old adage goes, “Keep it Simple, Stupid!” and watch your stock price rise.

Relatively speaking, and to end with a smile, the certain brand trademarks bring to mind the road signs found in Montréal. If we expect people to follow and comply with such signage, does it make sense to display so many messages? Why would it be any different for products, services and brands?

This article was originally published on Infopresse on November 1, 2012.

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