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Brand Simplicity: As the World Becomes More Complex, Simplicity Reigns Supreme

One of my core branding ideas states that the extra advanced the expertise or science, the easier the model messaging must be. When advertising their services or products, corporations violate this precept at their very own danger.

Evidence of this precept abounds within the client electronics world.

In a 2002 ballot, the Consumer Electronics Association found that 87% of individuals rated “ease of use” as crucial issue when contemplating a brand new expertise. Lately, it looks like numerous corporations have rediscovered the technique of simplicity and are incorporating it into their merchandise and their messaging. But earlier than we look at these newcomers to the simplicity scene, let’s take a look at a few pioneers who’ve held true to the precept of simplicity over an prolonged time period.

No firm within the client electronics world understands simplicity higher than Bose. While the expertise driving Bose’s improvements is sort of advanced, the buyer interface has all the time been easy. The result’s an industry-leading sound high quality with interfaces that customers can perceive in seconds — with out studying the consumer’s handbook.

In the 1950s, Dr. Amar G. Bose noticed that loudspeakers didn’t ship pure sound. In 1968, after in depth analysis into the science of sound, Bose launched the legendary 901 Direct/Reflecting speaker, which displays 89% of the hold forth partitions (much like a dwell live performance) for a pure, lifelike sound. In 1975, Bose developed the 301 sequence, which went on to turn into one of many bestselling loudspeakers of all time. Since that point Bose has launched a brand new product each few years — such because the Acoustic Noise Canceling Headsets, the Wave Radio and the three·2·1 Home Entertainment System — that captures the curiosity of shoppers.

The results of pursing this technique of simplicity? Millions of glad prospects, a spot on the Forbes Weathiest 400, and an estimated internet value of $900 million for Amar Bose.

Henry Klaus gives one other instance of a design engineer who understood the significance of simplicity. His Tivoli Audio Kloss Model One — an AM/FM desk radio with wonderful sound high quality — has remained in the marketplace for greater than half a century. You received’t discover a higher desktop radio for $125, and it fills a room with a high-quality sound that compares with methods costing 1000’s extra. Klaus additionally innovated the primary acoustic suspension speaker that grew to become the idea for the Advent Loudspeaker, which grew to become the reference design for all loudspeakers that adopted. When he handed away in 2002, Klaus left a protracted legacy of technical improvements that bordered on genius however all the time remained easy and clear on the interface with shoppers.

Opposite Ends of the Spectrum

At the opposite finish of the simplicity spectrum is Sony.

Most analysts attribute Sony’s current woes to lack of innovation — an actual Achilles Heel for product management corporations that try to ship the worth proposition of “best product, period.” I agree that lack of innovation tops of the checklist of Sony’s challenges, and deservedly so. However, I submit that the second by means of fifth causes must do with overly advanced merchandise.

As I write this weblog, a Sony DA5ES receiver sits subsequent to me on my desk. It has sufficient energy to simulate a California earthquake, but it surely additionally has sufficient complexity to confuse an engineering Ph.D. from Stanford. This receiver sports activities at least 37 buttons and knobs on the entrance panel, most of which I don’t know of what they do. Worse, neither do my youngsters, as a result of after they mess with all 37 knobs it actually sounds dangerous. In right now’s world, if a teen can’t determine a expertise, it’s too advanced.

Today’s leaders within the simplicity motion embody TiVo, Skype’s Voice-of-Internet service, Google’s search engine, Intuit’s Quicken and the Blackberry by RIM. But the actual shinning star within the simplicity class is Apple’s iPod. The iPod has been this yr’s runaway success story for a lot of causes. At the highest of the checklist, nonetheless, is its simplicity.

Other producers tried for years to attain dominant market share within the MP3 participant market, however their merchandise had been too difficult, too complicated or too troublesome to make use of. Apple cracked the nut on a easy design for each the iPod and the companion PC software program, iTunes. As a end result, Apple has offered greater than 20 million iPods to this point and holds a 75% share within the MP3 market. More essential, Apple has skilled an eight-fold enhance of their share value as a reward for his or her simplicity.

The Simplicity Dark Horse

While Apple could also be at the moment main the way in which, I see an actual darkish horse developing quick within the race for the only client electronics — Royal Philips Electronics.

By the late 1990’s, after a long time of relentless Asian competitors, the Netherlands-based Royal Philips Electronics had turn into a slow-moving sluggard whose merchandise — which ranged from medical diagnostic imaging methods to gentle bulbs to flat panel TVs — had been rapidly shedding floor within the market.

According to an article within the November 2005 concern of Fast Company Phillips attacked the issue of declining market share by deploying researchers in seven nations to survey practically 2,000 shoppers. Their aim? To establish the largest societal concern that the corporate ought to deal with. The response from these surveyed was loud and pressing — shoppers felt overwhelmed by the complexity of expertise.

According to Phillips’ analysis, some 30% of home-networking merchandise had been returned as a result of folks could not get them to work. In addition, practically 48% of individuals had postpone shopping for a digital digicam as a result of they thought it will be too difficult. As a results of this suggestions, Phillips strategists acknowledged an enormous alternative — to be the corporate that delivered on the promise of refined expertise with out the hassles. Rather than merely retooling merchandise, Philips would remodel itself into an easier, extra market-driven group. More essential, Philips, would place itself as a easy firm.

Phillips launched an inner and exterior marketing campaign, entitled “Sense and Simplicity [http://www.simplicity.philips.com/global_flash.html],” which required that all the pieces Philips did going ahead needed to be technologically superior however designed with the top consumer in thoughts. It additionally needed to be simple to expertise. More essential, each product and its ensuing options needed to emanate from a acknowledged and examined client want. This excellent now drives all the pieces Phillips does, from product conception to growth to packaging and distribution.

This drive for simplicity spans the whole firm. For instance, Philips not too long ago launched Dynamic Lighting, which brings the dynamics of daylight into the office, making a stimulating, “natural” lighting atmosphere and giving folks private management of their lighting. In this fashion, Dynamic Lighting enhances folks’s sense of well-being, motivation and efficiency.

While lots of Phillips’ new merchandise have but to hit the market, early outcomes of the enterprise reorganization, notably in North America, have been dramatic. Sales progress for the primary half of 2005 was up 35%, and the corporate was named “Supplier of the Year” by Sam’s Club and Best Buy. Phillips’ Ambilight Flat TV and GoGear Digital Camcorder received European iF awards for integrating superior applied sciences right into a consumer-friendly design, and the Consumer Electronics Association handed the corporate 12 Innovation Awards.

My guess is that Philips will reemerge over the subsequent a number of years as a number one expertise firm, a lot as Apple has not too long ago accomplished. I don’t faux to be an funding advisor, however I can be stunned if we don’t see an identical rise in Phillips’ inventory value. History reveals that markets reward the flexibility to simplify corporations and their merchandise in methods which can be significant to shoppers. As Phillips seems to be studying, slightly simplicity can go a great distance.

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