I don’t usually comment on competitors, but a recent survey by Siegel + Gale caught my eye because it demonstrates the dangers that lie in some brand research.
According to the survey, consumers would play 4-6% more for brands that they believed offered a greater degree of simplicity. I do believe simplicity is a valued brand value in today’s world, but brands should not take the results of this survey as gospel.
If you ask a question in research, you will get an opinion. But it doesn’t mean it is the most important opinion, especially when it comes to brand preference.
Let me provide an example: Recently, we did work for a client in which the values most highly rated in open-ended questions were things like ease of use, innovation and location. Therefore, if you took them as gospel, you would decide your brand must be built on those things.
Most brand research stops there, and it’s why you see so much meaningless marketing in which all the competitors in the market are saying the same things and messaging has no resonance.
However, when we tested numerous other values that were not returned in the open-ended questions, we found much higher emotional intensities from other values. In fact, when respondents were asked to compare those values, ease of use, innovation and location were simply crushed in terms of importance.
There are two things to note here: 1, you can only find highest emotional intensities in your category if you ask for them (that’s why you need brand strategists and a process – such as our behavior modeling – to uncover them, then test them in quantitative research that’s projectable to your larger target audience) and, 2, the values uncovered in Siegel + Gale’s “Simplicity Index” are what we call table stakes, what you must have to even play in the game. Respondents may want them, but don’t ever confuse them with creating preference or being true switching triggers. (It’s like pointing to someone’s carpet and saying, “I like that.” But you don’t know if they’d actually put that carpet in their homes without testing that carpet against other carpets or, more importantly, understanding what belief systems drive their choice.)
Being more direct in your communications, which the survey defines as ease of understanding, transparency, caring, innovation and usefulness of communications, is certainly important in having a strong brand.
However, more importantly, you must be single-minded and diligent in centering your brand messaging around the highest emotional intensity you can claim in the market. Valuing simplicity is not enough because you have to have some degree of simplicity in your brand to be viable.
What the “Simplicity Index” does not demonstrate is that consumers choose brands for emotional reasons, then backfill it with the rational reasons (such as simplicity). It is those emotional triggers that produce great brands.