By Lynn Manternach / Guest Column

It’s easy to make something complicated. It’s simplicity that’s hard. But there are clear benefits associated with simplicity, especially when it comes to your brand.

Steve Jobs once said, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

That’s because the best brands are simple. Simple to articulate. Simple to understand.
Simple brands connect with consumers by delivering what they want, when they want it and without hassle. That’s why seven out of 10 consumers are more likely to recommend a simple brand.

A simplified customer experience differentiates a brand in a way that really matters to people. That’s why six out of 10 consumers are willing to pay more for simpler experiences.
And simple brands win customer loyalty. That’s why the world’s simplest brands have beaten the average global stock index by 214 percent between 2009 and 2014.

Competition is stiff and the consumer’s attention span is short. Marketing and branding messages are literally everywhere, and consumers are constantly bombarded. That means you have to have something relevant to say, and it has to be simple to understand. Once you catch their attention, you better be ready to deliver on a simple brand experience.

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

The answers to these questions become the foundation for your brand-building efforts. Ultimately, branding is about the perceptions held by your customers and potential customers, so understanding how they have already simplified your brand 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.

Simple brands simplify the decision-making process. A worldwide survey of 7,000 consumers by the Corporate Executive Board showed consumers are overwhelmed by the volume of choices and information they are exposed to, as well as the relentless efforts of marketers to engage with them.

The study found that the best tool for measuring consumer-engagement efforts is the “decision-simplicity index.” The index measures how easy it is for consumers to gather and understand information about a brand, how much they can trust the information they find and how easily they can compare their options. The easier a brand makes the purchase-decision journey, the higher its decision-simplicity score.

Brands that score in the top quarter of the decision-simplicity index were 86 percent more likely than those in the bottom quarter to be purchased by the consumers considering them. They were 9 percent more likely to be repurchased and 115 percent more likely to be recommended to others.

Simple brands build trust with transparency. Customers are looking for a reason to trust brands, and a simple approach is generally perceived as more authentic. If you can keep it real, honest and simple, you are better positioned to earn trust from new and loyal customers.

Most consumers are emotional buyers. Your brand has to be simple and powerful enough to connect with a consumer emotionally. Logic plays a role, but for most consumers, logic is secondary to emotion in the decision process. Your simple and focused brand approach is the piece that gets consumers to the data they need to justify their emotional buying decision.

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 your brand, you have a huge advantage over competitors. Because simple is so very rare.

Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. (MindFireComm.com) in Cedar Rapids and LeClaire. Contact Lynn at lmanternach@mindfirecomm.com.