Marketing Megatrend: Simple Sells

Last Updated Nov 3, 2009 1:38 PM EST

Less Is MoreIt's a hot trend and it's here to stay. Retail marketers at Starbucks, Kraft, and Campbell have discovered that "simple" sells. Products that stress fewer ingredients - food, drinks, cosmetics, even pet food - are outselling rivals, as this USA Today story explains.

But is simple really better, or is this just another fad for health-conscious consumers, not to mention the ever-growing number of people looking for a quick fix so they can continue to gouge themselves on high-fat and sugary foods without feeling guilty? Sure, fewer additives and processing is a good thing, but three simple ingredients - butter, sugar, and flour - will kill you faster than you can say "cardiac arrest."

More to the point, tricking consumers with creative marketing is one thing. But will the trend extend beyond consumable products? Is 'simple' something we should all be watching and considering in our marketing, branding, and positioning? The simple answer to that is yes. Here are ...

Five reasons why you should Keep It Simple:
  1. I don't care if your business is B2B or B2C, high-tech or high fashion, IT or HR. When it comes to positioning your product or service, the simplest way of getting across your unique value proposition - the reason why customers should buy from you and not your competitor - is always the best way.
  2. We're all consumers. You, me, the CEO, even the seemingly unflappable finance and IT people. We're all consumers and we're all subject to mega-marketing trends that invade our subconscious day and night. You can fast-forward your Tivo through the commercials all you like, but major trends like this one will sink in anyway.
  3. We're all stressed-out on media, product, and "choice" overload. I never thought I'd say it, but too much choice can be a bad thing. Frankly, we're all overloaded with media and product choices. Moreover, technology adds complexity that takes time to learn. It's nice to have one less thing to analyze and worry about. "Simple" is calming, relaxing -- for a change.
  4. I've said it before, In Management, Keep It Simple. That simple rule goes a long way to explaining why Apple's Mac continues to gain market share over PCs, Carol Bartz is a way more effective CEO than Jerry Yang, and Lou Gerstner was able to restructure IBM while Jonathan Schwartz failed miserably at Sun.
  5. Simple has both left and right-brain appeal, which probably explains the other four reasons. Emotionally, we associate "simple" with easy, quick, controlled. And while we make left-brain decisions based on the perception of quality and performance, in many of those metrics - defects, moving parts, size and weight - less is more. These days we just want things to work the way they're supposed to - no instructions, no drama, no returns.
Last Word: To be honest, I've been preaching Keep It Simple in management and marketing for so long, I may not be the most objective commentator on the subject. So what do you think? Am I oversimplifying things?

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