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Samsung bests Apple in simplicity perception

(MoneyWatch) Apple (AAPL) has built a mighty reputation -- as well as a mighty business, profits, and cash hoard -- on selling simplicity and taste to consumers. According to a new report from branding consultancy Siegel+Gale, Samsung and others have picked up on the concept and are moving ahead toward potentially greater financial success as a result.

In fact, Samsung has learned so well that it landed a score of 779, moving far past Apple's 716, in the brand simplicity rankings for the first time. That mirrors the shift seen on the American Customer Satisfaction Index for the second quarter of 2013, during which the iPhone slipped from number one to three in smartphone customer satisfaction. Samsung models were in the first two places. Also, earlier this year, a Washington Post and ABC News poll suggested that Apple's standing with 18-29 year-olds had dropped significantly.

The company's drop to 19th place was in part due to a drop in its ratings in China. Although Apple has only a small market share in the country, last quarter sales in greater China represented 13 percent of total revenue. That was a 14 percent year-over-year drop. Given the country's size, China has been Apple's best hope for the significant sales growth that investors have looked for. The details of its China business will be an important point for Apple investors when the company announces its fiscal year 2013 fourth quarter earnings on Oct. 28.

According to the Siegel+Gale report, "Simplicity inspires deeper trust and greater loyalty in customers, and clears the way to innovation for employees." The firm claims that a portfolio comprised of the top 10 publicly-traded simplest brands outperforms the results of all major stock indices.

There were other unexpected changes in the listings. Microsoft's (MSFT) Bing search engine jumped 42 positions to land at 26. Google (GOOG) remained in a comfortable third place, but it shows that one of Google's long-held brand advantages could face erosion. Besting Google by one position was Amazon (AAPL), which is going toe-to-toe in tablets and services for consumers.

Then again, there is more to a business than the perception of brand simplicity. Just above Apple, with a rank of 18th, is Yahoo (YHOO), whose declining results have become as predictable as the rise of the morning sun.

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