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The State of Brands: Building Loyalty through Simplicity

In this blog series, The State of Brands, we discuss the growing complexity of the relationship between brand and consumer, and how this affects one the greatest challenges facing many CP companies today- achieving and sustaining brand loyalty.

The central theme for our first blog, Brand Loyalty is Alive and Well, revolved around the power shift from manufacturers to consumers as the driving force in generating brand loyalty. Brand loyalty is now a product of a consumer’s genuine perceptions combined with their real experiences with the brand.

We left you with the question of what else can a company do to ensure that it succeeds in maintaining a stable of strong brands that resonate with today’s consumers.  This blog discusses how companies can achieve brand loyalty by improving the customer experience through a relentless focus on “simplicity.”

Let’s take a moment to elaborate on the concept of “simplicity” as described by Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn in their recently released Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity. The book’s over-arching premise is that when companies, and by extension, brands, consistently behave in a simple, straight forward and honest manner with customers then the impact on the customer experience results in:

  • Distinctive added value to products and services which may serve as a competitive differentiator
  • Customers who are more satisfied and better informed, culminating in a higher level of trust which ultimately translates into greater brand loyalty

The premise definitely resonates with us as it’s probably a safe bet to assume we’ve all encountered multiple occasions of overly frustrating experiences with a product or service due to unnecessary complexity in the research, purchase, return or warranty process. What’s the result? The effect is often a lost customer or one who is open to trying alternatives and substitutes the next time around, resulting in ever diminished loyalty.

So, if the concept of simplicity seems basic enough, then why don’t more companies attempt to master it?  A key reason is that customers have historically not been very vocal about demanding simplicity, and that has driven apathy and complacency on the part of many organizations.  Companies haven’t been forced to invest the time and effort in thinking about simplification or in reforming entrenched practices that enable complexity.  However, all of this is changing. According to Yankelovich, today more than 80% of consumers are looking for ways to simplify their lives, and therein is the opportunity for brands.

If simplicity leads to greater trust and then to higher levels of brand loyalty, how can companies effectively position themselves to capitalize on this notion? According to Siegel and Etzkorn, the concept of breakthrough simplicity recognizes that today the most powerful innovations don’t manifest themselves as new bells and whistles. Instead, they take the form of better customer experiences. And one of the best ways to improve any experience is to simplify it – to ruthlessly remove complications, unnecessary layers, hassles or distractions, while focusing on the essence of what people want and need at that stage in the customer experience journey. In essence, every choice about the brand as expressed through product, packaging, price, promotion, after sale service, etc, should be based on trying to produce the most rewarding customer experience.

Take packaging, for example.  The cluttered packaging on store shelves can easily distract and dissuade potential shoppers, whereas clarity through simplicity has the opposite, persuasive effect. How would you describe your packaging relative to your competitors?

One of the key lessons of breakthrough simplicity is empathy.  To have empathy, you must walk a mile in your customers’ shoes to truly understand the many possible frustrations and satisfiers along their path to purchase, product usage and beyond. Equipped with this knowledge, you’ll be better grounded in all aspects of a genuine customer experience which, as we know, is a key driver of brand loyalty. How much empathy do you have and what might you do differently to build knowledge and expertise in this critical area?

Read the next blog in this series, Brand Loyalty for Different Generations.