Opinion series simplicity rules


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Against a backdrop of an increasingly complex and fragmented consumer culture, media overload, multiplying retail channels, and an increasing cynicism among consumers, marketers are rediscovering the power of simplicity in expressing their brand ideas. It simply makes sense.

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Opinion series simplicity rules

  1. 1. Primary Color OptionsOPINION SERIES:SIMPLICITYRULES.Against a backdrop of an increasingly complex and fragmentedconsumer culture, media overload, multiplying retail channels,and an increasing cynicism among consumers, some marketersare rediscovering the power of simplicity in expressing theirbrand ideas. It simply makes sense.
  2. 2. SIMPLICITY RULES WhaT’S gOINg ON hERE?Simplicity rules the day. In our über-branded world, we’re seeing a sea- This is more than a trend, even though it’s clearly trendy. It’s a morechange washing over the landscape. Some say it started with Google, fundamental change, a cultural shift, and one that the culturalsporting the cleanest user interface on the web at the time. (Interesting anthropologists and semioticians will be studying for decades. And thethat Microsoft’s Bing is now trying to out-simplify Google on functional- brands that recognized it early are reaping the rewards of reflecting theity.) Others say Target paved the way, with a simpler, cleaner shopper values that are driving the culture, even as they accelerate the shiftexperience, utilizing design as a strategic advantage in its pitched battle through their powerful brand expressions.with Wal-Mart. (Equally interesting that Wal-Mart is now trying to out-design and out-simplify Target.) The shift has many parents: our increasingly fragmented culture, media overload, overextended brands, SKU proliferation, and of course, the current economic reversal that fosters a deep desire for simple value as a response to the excesses of the recent past. In The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, psychology professor Barry Schwartz argues that con- sumers today are faced with far too many choices, noting that consumers would be far better off with a few distinctly different options instead of the countless array of choices they currently have. Whether choosing an insurance plan, a can of tomato sauce, or even a pair of jeans, Schwartz shows that a bewildering array of choices is overwhelming, and paradoxi- cally inhibits happiness instead of enhancing it. He debunks the notion that more choices will make consumers happier, offering instead the idea that having all these choices actually infringes on consumers’ psychologi- cal well-being. Author and consultant Jack Trout similarly contends, in The Power Of Simplicity: A Management Guide to Cutting Through the Nonsense and Doing Things Right, that simplicity is one solution for marketers who find it increasingly difficult to gain traction among consumers beset by too many complicated choices and options. He urges managers to “get back to basics” and use simplicity as an organizing principle to guideOther examples abound: enterprises to success. Trout notes that simplifying the value proposition• Häagen-Dazs touts a few simple ingredients with its Häagen-Dazs will reduce cost and increase sales and profits. five™ line.• Pepsi creates Throwback versions, harkening back to simpler times.• Coca-Cola renovates its trademark brands, eliminating gratuitous and superfluous design elements to express brand symbols more simply and compellingly.• Volkswagen builds an entire design language around simple forms.• Philips touts “Sense and Simplicity” as more than a tag line but as a corporate covenant.• Countless other brands feature simple, back-to-basic value proposi- tions that appeal to a seemingly endless desire for the honest, the true, the uncomplicated...in a word, SIMPLICITY.SIMPLICITY RULES 2
  3. 3. In our own practice, we’ve seen brand owners leverage the power of Outside the FMCG world, smart marketers are applying some of the samesimplicity to strengthen their brands. Heinz, in its Australian market, principles, and are gaining real marketplace advantages. In the usedlaunched a new line of frozen stir-fry vegetables with a fresh, confident auto business, CarMax has become the nation’s largest retailer in justlook that communicates convenient, everyday cooking. Bright, comple- over 15 years, with around 100 locations today. Its growth traces directlymentary colors, ample white space, simple design, and appetizing to the core concept driving the value proposition–honest simplicity andphotography suggest healthy, unprocessed, and easy to use benefits. straightforward dealing–the direct opposite of most consumers’ experi- ences with used car dealers.This trend toward simplicity and purity has also taken hold in the bever-age category, where unsweetened flavored water beverages are growingfaster than any other segment.Dasani Essence is an all-natural, no-calorie clear beverage that adds ahint of fruit to bottled water, including lime, black cherry, and strawberrykiwi flavors. The design took a straightforward, bold approach to thebrand that conveys honesty and simplicity. The new packaging is clean,modern and stylish to help encourage a healthy lifestyle and attitude. In another non-packaged-goods example, Intuit recently bought Mint, the web-based tool featuring a simple design interface that helps people manage their finances for an eye-popping $170,000,000. Simplification is absolutely central to the Mint proposition: Mint simplifies financial management, and does so in a way that is intuitive, accessible, and non-threatening. By helping consumers get organized and in control, it makes a notoriously complicated aspect of their lives more manageable. And by providing an elegantly designed, deftly executed product/service that WORKS, Mint has made a mint for its owners–while serving its user base admirably.Gundowring Fine Foods’ design features a series of smart two-colorlabels; the restricted palette, minimal typography, and a handdrawn swirlcreate an appealing label design that conveys real food, few ingredients,and simple authenticity. iPhone application So, regardless of commercial category, we can see that the principle of simple, straightforward, honest expression of no-nonsense value is gain- ing traction with consumers and delivering value to brand owners.SIMPLICITY RULES 3
  4. 4. a FEW SIMPLE RULESSimple ideas capture imaginations, inspire organizations, and motivateaudiences. Consistent with this, a few simple rules can assist brandowners in ensuring that their brand activities simply are effective.1. Base everything you do on a simple, compelling, differentiating idea.2. Make sure your brand expression is consistently executed, across media and across geographies.3. Use plain, honest, unpretentious language, not jargon. Think Strunk. Think White.4. Edit, edit, edit...not just verbally, but visually and conceptually. We all know the maxim that “less is more.” Put it into practice with your marketing communications: every element you add needs to “pay its way” in furthering the central brand promise. If it doesn’t, you should think twice, or three times, about adding it.5. Create a “culture of belief” around your brand promise, making sure you manage all brand points with the central theme of your brand in mind. (Southwest Airlines has nailed this. Nordstrom’s famously shopper-centric attitude drives sales and loyalty.)6. Revisit your product line regularly. Are there too many choices? Are products clearly differentiated from each other? If not, borrow a page from Barry Schwartz’s book, and simplify!Remember – managing brands for growth in these tough economic timesis difficult; but when done right, it looks...well...simple.SIMPLICITY RULES 4
  5. 5. Anthem Worldwide, a Schawk Strategic Design Company, is an integrated global network that provides innovative solutions to articulate, unify and manage brand impact. Anthem creates compelling brand experiences by aligning its strategic, creative and executional talent worldwide with the business needs of companies seeking a competitive advantage. Anthem offers a full range of branding and design services to our clients including Campbell’s, Coca-Cola, E-Mart, Foster’s, General Electric, Hbc, Kimberly-Clark, Microsoft, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Revlon, Safeway and Unilever. With our network of world-class design professionals in 13 cities, Anthem is presently located in Chicago, Cincinnati, Düsseldorf, Hilversum (The Netherlands), London, Melbourne, New Jersey, New York, San Francisco, Singapore, Sydney, Toronto, and York (U.K.) For more information on Anthem, please visit http://www.anthemww.com. © 2009 Schawk, Inc. All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the copyright holder. Schawk is a registered trademark of Schawk, Inc. The Schawk, Anthem and BLUE™ logos are trademarks of Schawk, Inc. All other trademarks are the properties of their respective owners.SIMPLICITY RULES 5