Less is more… is simplicity the simple solution to effective branding?

What is the value of simplicity? Is less truly more when it comes to branding? In today’s high-energy and complex world, where a multitude of brands are constantly bombarding consumers with messages, how can simplicity actually attract customers?


In the current context of hyper-media, where the market is vibrant with numerous brands vying for the consumer’s attention, a simplified strategy of bespoke branding ensures a brand can be remembered more easily and creates a longer-lasting, concrete impression.


Critically acclaimed psychologist and author, Dr Edward de Bono, is renowned for crafting a theory of simplicity that has been widely influential. It aims to challenge complexity and find ways to simplify procedures, processes and organisational dynamics and is especially applicable to brands.


“To get simplicity, you have to want to get it. To want to get simplicity you have to put a high value on it,” says de Bono. The first step is therefore having an appreciation of the genuine impact a simplified process or succinct branding advertisement can make.




“Simplicity has to be designed. In order to design something you need to know exactly what you are dealing with and what you intend to achieve. Not everything that is there really needs to be there,” he says.


Simplicity is the simple solution

Research by MarketingCharts found that 70 per cent of consumers from eight different global markets were more likely to recommend a brand purely because it provided simpler experiences and communications. This sort of positive word of mouth marketing is a gold mine for businesses. The same study also found that nearly 40 per cent of consumers would be willing to pay more money for a simpler experience. Clearly, de Bono’s theory continues to hold true today.


In an article for The Harvard Business Review, strategic branding expert Margaret Molloy emphasised that simplifying a brand is not only profitable, but also excellent for fostering loyalty. “By simplifying customer experience in a complex world, these brands win customer loyalty, which drives business results and creates value for shareholders. They cut through the clutter by delivering what consumers want, when they want it, without hassle.”


Some of the biggest global brands are doing just that, by using simplicity to their advantage.



One of the greatest brands of the modern era, Google ranked second on the 2015 Global Brand Simplicity Index and has remained in the top spots of this survey for several years.[1]


Google achieves this by constantly revitalising its service, regularly improving the search functions of its digital platform and boosting the speed and accuracy of its results.[2] The spider-bots that trawl the Internet to source ‘hits’ are so advanced that the top results for every search tend to be the most helpful, leading to the creation of an entire search engine optimisation industry, dedicated purely to ensuring brands do well on Google search through quality websites.


While the user-friendly nature and interface of Google is simple, the brand injects a sense of fun and playfulness by daily changes to the Google logo.[3] This idea is a simple yet effective way to create relatability and connect consumers to the brand on a human level.



This music enterprise is a classic example of a successful disrupter.[4] It lets consumers listen to the music they want on an easy-to-use streaming platform, and also scours an extensive range of music to automatically suggest a genre, artist, or tune similar to their selections. This algorithm adds immense value to the Spotify experience for the consumer as it takes the hard work out of discovering new musicians or songs. The music industry benefits too, as artists are exposed to a wider audience when they are ‘discovered’ by listeners on Spotify. Spotify also automatically generates playlists, as well as offering existing curated playlists sorted by mood or genre.


Best of all, the brand provides all of this functionality through a tantalisingly simple service offering – a major driving force behind Spotify’s success.


Burger King

Ranking sixth on the Top 10 list of the 2015 Global Brand Simplicity Index, Burger King is yet another example of a brand that enhances itself through simplicity. The use of red and yellow in its logo and branding instantly aligns it with the fast food industry. Colour psychologists have identified that the combination of red and yellow hues triggers our appetite and evokes a sense of fun – an ideal combination for the food industry.

Beyond its simple scheme of primary colours, Burger King has built its entire brand around a simple idea expressed in its slogan: ‘Have it your way’. This was crafted by the marketing team in 1974, but the brand has extended it into modern days, too. Russ Klein, former CMO of Burger King, discussed the slogan’s impact with author Allen P. Adamson in his book BrandDigital: Simple Ways Top Brands Succeed In The Digital World.[5]


“[The slogan] was developed over 30 years ago, but it’s perfect for the times in which we live. We realised there were lots of meaningful ways we could convey the idea of ‘having it your way’ from both a technological standpoint – people controlling our media content – and from a product benefit standpoint – guests controlling the way their food is prepared,” explained Adamson.


This simple approach of granting decision-making and customisation power to the consumer ensured the brand has been a household name for several decades.


Simplicity is key to the success of these three major brands, making a strong case for considering how less could be more for your business, when it comes to quality branding.


[1] The Index is compiled by market research company Siegel & Gale, overlooking and ranking 585 brands by surveying 12,000 global respondents.


[2] The name of the brand itself is simple and memorable, derived from the word ‘googol’ which is the mathematical number 10 raised to the power 100, implying Google’s search results are expansive and numerous.


[3] Many of these artistic designs respond to trending events or world occurrences, such as a sleigh and Santa Claus figure around Christmas.


[4] Margaret Molloy explains that disrupters are “newcomers gunning to overthrow the existing powers in their respective industries, or create completely new ones.”


[5] McDonald’s has recently adopted a similar strategy with its ‘Create Your Taste’ campaign.

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