A simple brand experience pays off. That’s the conclusion of the 2014 Siegel+Gale Global Brand Simplicity Index, an annual global study of more than 12,000 consumers in eight countries around the world.

Simpler Brand Experiences Wanted

Highlights from the report, which can be downloaded here, include the following:

  • 38% of consumers would pay for simpler brand experiences
  • 70% of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand because it is simple
  • Since 2009, a portfolio of the simplest global brands has outperformed the major indexes by 170%
  • Brands like Uber and Airbnb are disrupting traditional industries by eliminating complexity and simplifying the customer experience

You don’t have to conduct a global survey to know that simplicity sells. You just need to be hungry, and in a hurry, to find yourself in a Chipotle restaurant where the menu board is simple to understand and the ordering process is painless. Here in Portland, Oregon, local burger restaurant Little Big Burger takes away the cognitive pain of too many choices with a minimalist menu that consists of six basic items (hamburger, cheeseburger, veggie burger, fries, soda and root beer float).

Yet simplicity is hard to achieve and hard to maintain. Consider McDonald’s, a “simplicity star” which consistently ranks in Siegel+Gale’s global top 10. The fast-food giant’s recent performance woes have been attributed to its introduction of more complex menu offerings, which have slowed service times down to an all-time low and hurt the overall customer experience. (Having waited eight minutes for a coffee, I’m happy to hear that the company is getting back to basics.)

How to Simplify Your Brand Experience

Simplicity needs to be incorporated into the foundation of a brand and extended through each and every one of its touchpoints. Here are three suggestions for simplifying your own brand:

Clarify your brand promise

A brand promise, sometimes called a brand essence, is a clear and concise statement of how a brand connects with customers on a very basic and emotional level. Your brand promise shouldn’t tell people what you do. It should tell people what they can expect to feel when they interact with you. It should be the reason why people choose your brand over someone else’s.

Brand promises are supposed to be simple. They go awry when they try to accommodate the expectations of too many people (e.g., executive teams, shareholders, board members, etc.) at the expense of the right people (e.g., customers). Always be clear about what your brand stands for and how it makes people feel.

Manage your brand touchpoints

When your entire organization works together to give people an experience that delivers on the promise that you’ve made them, you build long-term loyalty and support. The key is to identify all the ways that your brand interacts with the outside world. Each one of these interactions is a chance to reinforce your basic brand promise—or to take away from it by making things unnecessarily complex and confusing. A simple visual tool called the “brand touchpoint wheel” can help identify and prioritize opportunities to make an impression during every stage of the sales relationship cycle. (Read our previous blog post for details.)

Cover up your complexities

You won’t win a gold medal for running a complex business. Companies like Google, Ikea, Amazon, ZARA and Sephora operate incredibly complicated businesses, yet rank high on the simplicity index because they manage to deliver a straightforward customer experiences. In turn, customers develop very high expectations of service—and expect to receive the same treatment from other brands. They also see straight through hyperbole and marketing jargon. The lesson? Use simple language that gets to the heart of your brand promise and clarifies your brand’s ultimate value proposition.

The Payoff

The simpler the brand the more it has to gain in terms of loyalty, referrals and sales. To quote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:  “In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”