Is simple branding better for consumers?

Simple branding is often touted as a cure-all for many business problems. Conventional wisdom encourages companies to simplify their brands, their offerings, and their customer experience. A simple brand makes it easy for customers to understand who you are, what you do, and why they should give you their business. A simple brand makes it easy for them to use and enjoy your products and services, and thus for you to create repeat buyers and even promoters.

It sounds good, and it’s easy to see why so many experts give this advice. No one is going to argue that you should seek out complexity and confusion for your brand. When your customers are confused, bad things happen.

What if simplifying your brand, or offerings, or experience takes away from the value they create?

 

Simplification Case Study: Ford

For instance, there used to be only a few options in car models. Then manufactures started increasing the number of models they made: compact sedans, midsize sedans, full-size sedans, SUVs, crossovers, midsize trucks, full-size trucks, station wagons, hatchbacks, vans, minivans, luxury models. In 2017, Ford Motor Company offered over 30 vehicle models.

All those models add complexity to Ford’s business. They had to market and sell to different buyers, use different processes, manufacture different parts for all of those different vehicles. So why did Ford do it? Because it also added value to Ford’s business. Ford was able to sell more products to more buyers because they offered a range of models that met their customers’ needs. They offered additional customizations within those models, which added even more complexity, but also better served the market. It would have been simpler to only offer one model, in one color, with one engine, and one entertainment system. But it would have lessened the value of the Ford brand.

In early 2018, Ford announced they were simplifying their offerings and were no longer going to manufacture sedans. They were responding to market demands by eliminating products that weren’t performing.

But not as widely reported is that they are also adding new products, including 16 electric vehicles, and expanding on-board technology to meet market demands. And they are also exploring how services can add to the driver’s experience and bring additional value. So they aren’t really simplifying at all they’re actually adding operational complexity with new options, different motor types, and services. But they are doing it to better serve their market, and that’s valuable.

 

Is there a down side to a simple brand?

When you simplify your offerings, you risk losing valuable parts. But there is an alternative to simplicity. Instead of opting to be simple brands, many companies are looking to be clear brands. Clarity enables you to keep the complexity (and value) of what you bring to the market, but also organize information and communicate to your customers so that can understand and engage.

If you are wondering whether simplicity or clarity is right for your brand and company, check out this one-page comparison.