When it comes to branding, keep it simple

By Lynn Manternach / Guest Column

Is less really more when it comes to branding? To put it simply, yes.

Competition is stiff and the consumer’s atten­tion span is short. Marketing and branding mes­sages are everywhere and consumers are constant­ly bombarded. There are too many distractions and not enough time to process complex infor­mation. That means you have to have something relevant to say – something consumers actually care about – and it has to be simple to understand.

In a noisy world, simplicity and focus are highly effective ways to drive competitive advan­tage. According to the Siegel+Gale Global Brand Simplicity Index, simplicity strengthens a brand in measurable ways. Nearly two-thirds of con­sumers say they are willing to pay more for a sim­pler experience. Seven out of 10 are more likely to refer a brand that provides a simpler experience.

Simple brand ideas result in powerful and memorable branding that people immediately connect with. Those ideas have to make it clear that the brand is different and relevant to their needs. That means you need simplicity in approach, in processes, in communication and more.

Consumers make snap judgments. They think in a blink. The clearer the message, the easier it is for the consumer to make a deci­sion. If your targeted consumer doesn’t quickly understand what you’re selling and why they should care, you’ve lost them.

One of the most overused excuses for poorly executed creative is “they’ll figure it out.” They’ll figure it out if they are so intrigued they actually want to figure it out. Most of the time, they’ll just click away to something more interesting.

Developing a simple brand starts with under­standing the shorthand your consumers have al­ready attached to it. Is there a single concept or word consumers associate with your brand? From their perspective, how is your brand different from your competitors, if at all? And what makes your brand relevant to those who know it best?

The answers to these questions should be­come the foundation of your brand-building efforts. Ultimately, branding is about the per­ceptions held by your customers and potential customers, so understanding how they have al­ready simplified yours is powerful information. The strongest brands are built on simple, com­pelling ideas that stand out from the clutter by signaling that they’re different and relevant.

The brand you ultimately develop is probably not a direct reflection of what you hear from con­sumers. It’s a refinement of consumer perceptions. It’s the essence of what makes your brand relevant and compelling, combined with your business strategy and your overall vision. It has to be simple because if you can’t articulate your brand clearly and simply, your employees aren’t going to be able to, and consumers will never get it.

Employees are a critical part of this process. It’s easy to assume you can leap from the board­room to the marketplace and skip right over em­ployees, but that would be a huge mistake. Your employees need to be involved because they have the potential to be one of the most import­ant and most visible aspects of your brand.

When an organization’s brand is simple and real, employees easily understand what it stands for. That’s important, because it’s their ability to demonstrate understanding that brings the brand to life for your customers.

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, how to communicate it simply and make it easy for oth­ers to interact with it, you’ll have a huge advan­tage over your competitors.

Now that you know that simplicity is one se­cret to success, what will you do to simplify the experience of interacting with your brand and make the consumer experience a priority?

Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. in Cedar Rapids and Le Claire. Contact her at lmanternach@mindfirecomm.com