KISS and tell: Testing the notion that the world’s strong brands are “simple” ones.

When you think of strong brands, the notion of their “simplicity” might seem a bit surprising. And yet this is the contention of Siegel+Gale, a leading brand strategy firm.

S+G has gathered together its research findings in an annual ranking it calls the World’s Simplest Brands.  These are the brands that deliver best on their promise with simple, clear, intuitive experiences.

Howard Belk, the company’s CEO and chief creative officer, explains it this way:

World’s Simplest Brands quantifies the substantial monetary value of investing in simplifying.  Now in its eighth year, our study reaffirms an increasing demand for transparent, direct, simple experiences that make peoples’ lives easier … the data prove that simplicity pays.”

In order to research brand simplicity, S+G queried ~15,000 people living in nine countries (the United States, India, China and Japan plus several European and Middle Eastern nations) to evaluate well-known brands and industries on their perceived simplicity.

Among the findings in its most recent annual evaluation, S+G reports that political, economic and cultural uncertainty coupled with shifting customer expectations are contributing to a heightened desire for simplicity.

The value of simplicity manifests itself in a number of ways; two key ones are:

  • A clear majority of people (~64%) are more likely to recommend a brand that delivers simple experiences.
  • A majority of the survey respondents (~55%) report that they are willing to pay more for simpler experiences.

S+G calculates that companies which fail to provide simple brand experiences forego nearly $100 billion in sales revenues collectively.

Based on its research, S+G ranks the Top 10 World’s Simplest Brands, as well as a Top 10 ranking for brands in the United States. Netflix, ALDI and Google top the worldwide rankings:

  • #1. Netflix
  • #2. ALDI
  • #3. Google
  • #4. Lidl
  • #5. Carrefour
  • #6. McDonald’s
  • #7. Trivago
  • #8. Spotify
  • #9. Uniqlo
  • #10. Subway

Explaining how several of the key brands made it to the pinnacle, S+G reported the following:

  • Netflix achieved top spot for the first time, thanks to its ease of experience allowing users to stream, pause and resume viewing without commercials or commitments.
  • ALDI scores well because they surpass big-box competitors with their clear communications, affordable prices, and premium private-label products.

U.S. Brand Simplicity Rankings are Different

Not surprisingly, S+G’s Top 10 list of the simplest brands looks different from a purely American perspective, with just four brands ranking in the Top 10 on both the USA and world lists. Here are the top-performing brands based on just American respondents:

  • #1. Lyft
  • #2. Spotify
  • #3. Amazon
  • #4. Costco Wholesale
  • #5. Subway
  • #6. Google
  • #7. McDonald’s
  • #8. KFC
  • #9. Southwest Airlines
  • #10 Zappos

What’s also interesting is what kinds of brands aren’t showing up on the Top Ten lists. News and social media industry participants aren’t ranking well – think platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and broadcast networks like CNN, NBC and ABC.

Also failing to show up are brands operating in industries that are steeped in complexity – fields like car rental services, insurance services and the worst one of all, TV/cable and other telecommunications brands.

The S+G report concludes by stating companies and brands “benefit greatly by keeping it simple for customers … or [they] suffer the consequences.” Moreover, companies that are operating in highly competitive marketplaces can cut through and rise to the top based on their brand simplicity.

More information about the Siegel+Gale research findings can be accessed here.

What about you?  Which brands would you classify as particularly noteworthy in their simplicity appeal? Please share your thoughtss with other readers.

One thought on “KISS and tell: Testing the notion that the world’s strong brands are “simple” ones.

  1. The best brands, it seems to me, are successful on Darwinistic grounds. They assuage fear of the hunt. As a music critic, my example would be how a brand like Bose dispelled buyer fears of stereo equipment.

    Fifty years ago, “high fidelity”, even just for a college student, was a macho undertaking involving stacks of components, wires stripped with your teeth, heavy lifting, and mysterious assay office behavior directed at a turntable and arm. Half the men who flexed their muscles to set up systems barely had a clue, and their wives and girlfriends wouldn’t have even pretended to try.

    Most home sound systems, as a result, sounded below potential, usually ruined by a ball of dust on the stylus, a loudspeaker jammed into the wrong corner, or a row of sliders, buttons and blinking lights out of whack. It was all simply too complicated. This hunt was not for the faint of heart. You needed your wits about you. And you needed training.

    Now fast-forward to a modern manufacturer, like Bose and its $99 computer speakers: one box, two speakers, color-coded wires attached between them, amp in one of them, cord waiting to plug into your laptop or cellphone. Plug into wall. Go to YouTube or a music subscription service. Play a symphony or whatever your heart desires. Think how simple that now is.

    We have gone, in other words, from Charles Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” to something no harder than skeet shooting. We are no longer on safari. And there is little danger anymore. We are now in the realm of Donald Rumsfeld’s “known unknowns”.

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