Is It Really That Simple?
Simplicity Within Branding
”Less is more.”
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Leonardo da Vinci (attributed)
What’s the deal? Do a 19th century poet and a Renaissance painter offer modern lessons of simplicity within branding?
Each of us stores temporary information in a way so that it can be manipulated and analyzed. This mechanism, which helps us pay attention to our surroundings, is called working memory. Without practice or training, it has been estimated that the average person’s working memory is limited to remembering 3-4 things at any given time.
So? Simplicity helps people remember. Simplicity functions with our working memory.
Quick. Think of a simple brand.
What did you name?
The first one most people think of is Apple. Apple’s current logo is a single color and 2 shapes: an apple with a bite and a small leaf. It is clean, minimal, and easily recognizable. It announces the product and designates a store. Does the bite tell a story? Not officially, but the symbolism of an apple is no stranger to folklore or literature. Who doesn’t want a bite of knowledge? Logos do not need heavy detail to invoke iconic metaphors for consumers. “Simple” does not mean “simple-minded.”
Simplicity within branding can take a variety of forms, whether through a service offering, product packaging and design, or logo. What other brands reflect simplicity? Amazon? Netflix? McDonald’s? Can you picture their logos and services with ease? Can you summarize what those brands offer?
What came to mind? The search engine? Or the colorful, text that is both the company name and logo? Take a look at the default home page for Google.
We probably didn’t need to post an image for you. The standard company logo is on a white background devoid of ads and text and clutter, above a simple search box. The company’s brand has even become a colloquial term for searching the internet. Perhaps that’s why it is consistently used as the most popular search engine (here’s one ranking).
Simplicity in branding is so significant, in fact, that it has become the subject of an annual study by Siegel + Gale, resulting in the Global Brand Simplicity Index based upon the surveys of thousands of consumers in several countries. This study reveals that the success of simplicity isn’t merely about aesthetics: simplicity in branding also drives performance. This makes sense, doesn’t it? If consumers remember your brand (because of simplicity), then they will buy more, revenue will increase, and your company will perform better.
However, over-simplification can kill your brand by eliminating the story it tells. It doesn’t mean trim your logo to a meaningless shape or character. Brands must operate simultaneously in a complex multi-targeted environment: “They must talk not just to the core target group, but also to users, non-users and employees; to consumers in different countries with different cultures, who have a different awareness of and attitude to their brands.” In other words, tell your story widely yet consistently and clearly in a sophisticated world. Avoid becoming one-track minded. When is a simple brand a bad choice? When your brand itself embodies a complexity of services like this one.
The payoff of well-crafted simplicity in branding is powerful. Customers want to make easy decisions. Meet needs quickly and efficiently in order to make happy, satisfied customers. Satisfied customers are more likely to become loyal.
Let your brand make the decision easy for the consumer, while recognizing that your consumers do not all belong in a “one-size-fits-all” demographic. Allow your brand the freedom to reflect the unique distinctness of individual consumers.
Perhaps we could call it “unique simplicity” in branding. Therein lives da Vinci’s ultimate sophistication.
It’s really that simple.
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