Simplicity sells the luxury dream

In an ever-more complex world, brands have to hone and deliver a message simply. Brand consultancy Siegel+Gale hosts an evening at The Arts Club in London's Mayfair to find out how luxury brands can rise to the challenge.

The panel of luxury brand experts, moderated by Siegel+Gale President Philip Davies (far left)

The panel

Richard Beckett, Design Architect, Bartlett School, UCL, Philip Davies, EMEA President, Siegel+Gale, Laurie Field, Head of Marketing, Bamford, Maurizio Pellizzoni, Founder and Creative Director, MPD London, Natalia Shugaeva, Head of Design, Fabergé

On an evening when the audience is gathered to discuss the concept of luxury, simplicity and branding, it is fitting to discover that the previous occupant of The Arts Club Drawing Room was brand Victoria Beckham. ‘Posh’ has recently opened her minimalist-design store a few doors along in Dover Street. As well as representing fashion for the well-heeled, the VB range is renowned for the simplicity of its lines.

In our increasingly hectic lives, simplicity is an attribute for which the time has come – and simplicity not just of design, but also of customer experience. Siegel+Gale, host of this evening’s event, even claims people will pay more for simple experiences, and that companies with simplicity at their core are more profitable; its annual study, the Global Brand Simplicity Index, proves this.

But what does it mean for a brand to be simple, and how can luxury brands, often associated with fussiness, embrace it?

Definitions of simplicity

Philip Davies (Siegel+Gale) Simplicity doesn’t have to be about reductionism or being simplistic. My definition of simplicity comes from Philippe Starck. He has six offices in six homes around the world, and at each one he has the same Ducati motorbike waiting for him. All the bikes are started by the same key. That’s a great example of making your life as easy and friction-free as possible.

Laurie Field (Bamford) Bamford tries to keep things very simple with its codes and DNA colours. It’s very white and beige, and that allows all of our products to speak for themselves. It has to be timeless and something that you can buy this season and still want to wear next season.

Natalia Shugaeva (Fabergé) Making jewellery is complex and the materials are opulent, but you have to try to cut through what is superfluous and arrive at a shape and form you want. Our brand story is really complex, so we need to find some­thing that is relevant for today and make it simple.

Richard Beckett (UCL) Simplicity is sometimes a post-rationalisation of a complex process. It is important when it comes to communication to keep things understandable for the people you bring in, like contractors and fabricators for a building. When you allow the initial idea to get complex, you lose what made it work.

Maurizio Pellizzoni (MPD London) For us, it’s about making things simple for the client. Interiors are very complex and we aim to take the stress away from them. The client does not need to know about the problems. Not everybody understands how difficult it can be to make simple things. If the client tries to micro-manage, then they take away the simplicity.

Examples of simplicity

LF A brand like Hermès makes fantastic use of its ‘DNA’ codes and it uses them over and over again, so that everybody recognises them. Our design team is on the same journey to create our look. The results last year were very exciting, and the customers understood.

NS A personal example is my wedding band, which was created using a technique called mokume-gane, where many layers of metal are fused together and hammered out to create a unique pattern in the metal, so no two rings are the same. There is an immense amount of skill and precious material, but it stays so simple.

PD Great brands are about truth. Oscar Wilde reportedly said to an actor struggling in a role: "Be yourself, because everyone else is taken." If you centre yourself on a clear point of truth, that can play every day.

Understanding luxury

RB We worked with [knitwear brand] Pringle of Scotland on 3D printed fabrics, collaborating with designer Massimo Nicosia. It’s a way of trying to redefine what we associate with luxury. Luxury is associated with raw materials, but also craftsmanship, and technical crafts­manship will have a place in the luxury market. New materials could be designed to produce a bespoke outcome.

LF The craftsmanship in our double-faced cashmere is amazing and the artisans that produce it are often family networks, working together. We have used it to produce a coat with no hooks. It has movement and every customer who comes in wraps themselves in it. It is such a beautiful and simple piece. It’s stunning.

What next for luxury?

NS It’s about the experience. For example, [the consumer] could travel to the mine and dig out the stone for [their] jewellery. It can be done and you are interacting with the raw materials. We are all so exposed to information about everything, but to see something with your own eyes is unique.

RB There are real possibilities with [new] technology. Look at the interest in spirituality and personal dev­elopment. Why could it not be possible to design a garment or space that changes with our emotions, for example? It would be design for the soul or the spirit. We already indicate our moods and feelings on Facebook.

Educate the consumer

LF People want to know where a product comes from, and with the internet it’s easy to find out about provenance. They can get a cashmere jumper from Uniqlo for a fraction of what they’d pay from us, so we have to let them know why they are paying [more] for something from us.

MP Clients will go online and find a cheaper material and wonder why we are not using it. But it may not be good quality and won’t last. Our interiors are meant to last for a generation. You don’t have to change the whole room every few years, but can adapt a few elements.

NS We use guilloché enamels in a way that few people can and it is difficult to understand the process. It is important that the luxury consumer understands how things are made and to be truthful in the way you operate. Traceability is important.

PD American Express is a client of ours and you see how people in different markets want dif­ferent things. Brands have to be able to stand for one thing and yet manage that conversa­tion globally. One thing is for sure – simplicity helps. It is easier to convey why something has a premium if it is a clear and simple proposition.

The test of time

MP Luxury used to be con­nected to mon­ey and cost. Now it’s more about a feeling. I come from Lake Como, one of the most beautiful places. You can spend lots staying in a luxury hotel, or you can just visit and appre­ciate its beauty.

RB We’re the generation of Amazon same-day delivery, so brands might have to engage with instant gratifica­tion. Maybe luxury brands will have to be flexible. Rather than some­thing being the same forever, part of the service proposi­tion will be that you can change it after six months.

PD Develop the brand from the centre out. The experience needs to be consistent and true. It is not about a colour or logo, but staying true to the experience. You must have the courage and conviction to make sure it is deployed with ruthless and brutal simplicity.

Simplicity’s power for brands

From established brands to disruptive emerging companies, the Global Brand Simplicity Index from Siegel+Gale, now in its fifth year, evaluates the state, significance and impact of simplicity on brands. Year after year its benefits remain constant. Brands that offer simpler cust­omer experiences are rewarded with passionate customer loyalty, greater revenue growth and increased profits. In short, embracing simplicity improves the bottom line. 

Some of the key findings from this report – based on an online survey of more than 12,000 consu­mers in eight countries, who are asked to evaluate perceived points of simplicity or complexity in consumer interactions with more than 585 brands across 25 industries – show that:

- Simplicity pays: 38% of consumers are willing to pay more for simpler experiences.
- Simplicity is shared: 70% of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand because it’s simple.
- Simplicity outperforms: data from the past five years shows a stock portfolio comprised of the publicly traded, simplest brands in the Global Top 10 outperforms the major indexes by 170%.

Brands can scale or plummet in the rankings based on a multitude of factors. To read more about the Index, see how your brand scores and compares with other industries worldwide, go to simplicityindex.com.

To get exclusive footage from the event and find out why Simplicity works for brands, visit marketingmagazine.co.uk/simplicitypays


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