In a multi-channel world, simplicity is the new sophistication

Far from being simple, marketers who don't over-complicate their brand thinking are actually the most sophisticated strategists out there, argues Trevor Cairns, CEO of LOVE.

Trevor Cairns: simplicity can cut through today's complex world
Trevor Cairns: simplicity can cut through today's complex world

We all lead busy, networked lives and none more so than the neatly termed ‘iGeneration’, who as lifelong users of social media and instant messaging are brought up making rapid decisions with a swipe of the thumb.

These channels are often a contradiction in terms – they offer more opportunities to bombard consumers, yet reduce attention spans as overwhelmed consumers struggle to field everything we throw at them.

Consequently as marketers we need to change the way brands communicate.  We must grasp the hunger for instant gratification and rally against overcomplicated, layered brand thinking that justifies the existence of marketers but in reality does little bar dilute impact. You know you’re in trouble when you’re teasing your tease campaign.

Killing complexity

Aldi is one of the brand success stories of the year in the UK. It has prospered through a simple premise - helping time-poor consumers navigate their supermarket, by offering fewer choices without compromising on quality or price competitiveness. The retailer reduces complexity for overloaded shoppers.

It’s easy to see how complexity can reign. The internal workings of client organisations are often a tangled web - multiple stakeholders and so multiple, competing priorities. A plethora of products, categories and channels can all contribute to a messaging meltdown.

Never before has it been as important to have one core idea at the heart of a brand. And equally important is that everyone across the business – internal department or external agency – seamlessly aligns around what the brand stands for.

A core idea should be flexible enough to be told in different ways to different audiences, but the stories told must be cohesive and additive.

Apple and Google both have a single-minded simplicity at the heart of their communications. A core idea should be flexible enough to be told in different ways to different audiences, but the stories told must be cohesive and additive.

Take shoe brand TOMS for example - its philanthropic core makes as much sense when applied to coffee as it does to its initial starting point in footwear. Or the Aesop beauty brand which engages local designers in every new store to create culturally relevant retail, reinforced by obvious familiarity in its product range.

It's all in the execution

Simple should not to be confused with simplistic.  Many of the most sophisticated campaigns are at their heart very simple.  Chanel’s supermarket-inspired AW14 catwalk show in Paris showcased Chanel-branded household essentials, from cheese to cereal, produced with an ironic nod to mass market culture. This tongue-in-cheek core idea provoked an Instagram storm and led to spontaneous looting by an audience of high end fashionistas. Simplicity executed brilliantly.

The Chanel supermarket taps into the rising demand for immediate experiences. Over the last couple of years the role of experiential marketing has been elevated and increasingly brands are investing more in this area as physical re-emerges from the shadow of digital.

In a world of fractured attention spans, keep it simple – find your truth, tell it memorably and let the consumer decide

Sales of experiential luxury accounted for more than half of all luxury sales in 2012 – the key metric has shifted from sales per square foot to wonder per square foot. Experiences are rich, immersive journeys that entertain and educate in equal measure, rather than complex brand campaigns that require engagement across multiple media to make sense.

I’m sure that the majority of marketers will continue to chase new channels and technologies in their relentless quest for engagement.

We’re almost programmed to chase the next "big thing".  But it'll be those that create a more efficient path who will rise above the noise and drive commercial success. In a world of fractured attention spans, keep it simple – find your truth, tell it memorably and let the consumer decide.



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