Radical simplicity.

Marketing is very complicated right now. Brands vie for our attention at every turn, in every medium. The devices we carry around or strap on our wrist are a continuous cacophony of alerts and reminders of things we should be doing, or reading, or tracking. At Shiny we talk about how this has created “the age of distraction” where our time to have meaningful exchanges with people – and brands – is divvied up into increasingly smaller and smaller bits. So what should a marketer do?

Embrace radical simplicity.

By this I mean create brand experiences that remove every possible friction point that separates your customer from your brand. Harvard Business Review has identified that “decision simplicity” is the single biggest driver to brand stickiness. Removing the extraneous and making it easy for people to understand and experience your brand, ultimately gets people to purchase confidently. Getting to radical simplicity means rethinking how people actually experience your brand, such as:

  • Use retail space to service, not sell. There are big pain points when buying things in-store, like waiting in line to purchase or the frustration of the store not having the exact item you want. Smart retailers are rethinking the role of the physical store so it’s less about product delivery and more about product exploration and relationship building. Bonobos set the stage for this with its “Guideshops” where you try on a product, but don’t physically leave the store with it. Bigger brands are noticing, too; by the time you read this Walmart (which now owns Bonobos) will have finished its trial of using some of its physical stores as holiday experience centers versus just purveyors of product. It will be interesting to see what they learned.
  • Utilize meaningful voice control. As voice assistants become more sophisticated and reliable, we are on the cusp of moving away from the app-dominated experience of mobile devices. Keep an eye on Amazon as it continues to roll out its Alexa-enabled devices making voice and simple, complementary touch experiences more prevalent, and see if they achieve the goal of displacing the mobile phone.
  • Deliver one, consistent experience wherever your customer is. Customers expect brands to know exactly how they have engaged with you, and what they want next. Brands need to reflect that understanding wherever they engage customers along the marketing continuum. College Ave Student Loans created a loan application that was not only mobile-first to reflect the desires of its young audience, but made it seamless to start an app on one device and finish it on another, even if it involved bringing another person into the process (in this case that ever-important cosigner to secure the loan).

So how easy is it to bring radical simplicity to the market? Not very. In fact it ironically can be very, very complex. How should agencies and brands approach this goal? Here are three ideas:

  • Knowing your customer is more important than ever. Creating a radically simple experience requires absolute knowledge that what you’re building will deliver against their needs. Brands need to have acute insight into what those needs are and in many cases the qualitative insights will get you there faster than troves of quantitative research. Listen to your customers. Watch how they shop or engage with your brand and its competition. See first-hand where they get hung up in dealing with your brand. Use all of that to define their needs and put those front-and-center as you design to deliver against them.
  • Iterate to simplicity. Your customers want you to get obstacles out of their way and they want you to do that yesterday. Embrace the quick and good enough, learn what works, and then quickly enhance and improve. In this case data is your friend – have your analysts working side by side with your creative and strategy teams to translate the insights gleaned into actionable, small improvements. Do not wait for great. This means having a team structure built around ongoing ideation and iteration and funding that is persistent throughout the year.
  • Put simplicity at the core of your brand promise and then ensure every interaction delivers against it. Hand-in-hand with this will be innovation, as getting to radical simplicity will require the tearing down of what exists and the creating of something cleaner and better. Or if you’re lucky enough to start from scratch with a new brand, leverage simplicity as an important point of differentiation. Lemonade Insurance Company is a great example of this with its unique approach to renters and home insurance including the ability to pay claims in a literal matter of seconds.

Commit to radical simplicity in 2018 and your clients – and their customers – will thank you.


This article originally appeared in the January/February 2018 edition of Philly Ad News.