Be Plain and Simple

The most powerful brands in the world use the simplest features for the biggest impact. Here's why.

Your product is the best of its kind. You deliver the most unique solutions compared to your competitors. Your company offers a complex service in an industry that is difficult to understand and takes years to master.

Why would you make your customer's job more difficult?

I've said this time and time again about developing a strategy. If you can't write it on a cocktail napkin or explain it in a moment, it's not a good one. The most effective strategy is the one that can capture your staff's attention and stick with them. You'll need to inspire the vice president and the apprentice. If this is hard, imagine what it's like being a customer.

Do you want the most unique design, with all the bells and whistles? The visual features that are completely original, built with design precision that is difficult, if not impossible, to replicate?

Sounds great for fast cars and luxury cuisine. It's not great for a brand.

Customers are asked daily to discover new marketing messages, see them in passing, and remember them. Obviously, most of them will be forgotten.

A circle with a dot in it. A swoosh. A smile. Golden arches. The most valuable brands on earth tend to be simple. They are asking you a very simple question. To hit the mark, make a move, to find satisfaction, or to love it.

And your complicated industry with unique challenges and very detailed solutions is not a good enough excuse to make the customer's job harder. Salesforce's blue cloud, Citigroup's red umbrella arch. Even complicated brands thrive when understanding them is not complicated.

But how do you get there with your brand? It takes millions of dollars in marketing, right?

I imagine the pitch when some design agency sat before the executives of a luxury brand and said, "Basically, we're going to take the letter C in a very plain font and then another backward C overlapping it. What do you think?"

Sounds too simple, right? $15 billion dollars in brand value later, Chanel seems like it made a good move.

"But we're not Chanel."

That is true. Until you can practice the restraint and consistency of a simple brand, you might never be.

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