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The concept of “simple” has a different meaning and a different value for every person. For me, it means eliminating all but the essential, eschewing chaos for clarity, and spending time doing only what really matters to me or my family. Today, we are all searching for a more simple way. We are embracing this cultural shift in any way we can because the world has gotten loud, overstimulating, crowded and difficult to comprehend. So, we deeply desire and gravitate toward that which is simple. This same mind-shift can be felt in how we shop and the brands that we embrace. We must be able to hear a brand’s voice clearly if we are to connect with it.
Clients are often caught off guard when I say their brands are complicated, chaotic, unfocused and loud. They are stunned when I tell them that what they need is some old-fashioned simplicity. One reason for brand story clutter is that companies often see the brand through a category lens rather than a consumer lens.
And what is a brand really? It is a story well told. And to tell it well, you must delete many of the things that do not matter to the real story so that you can devote your time to telling your story in a way that does matter. It means getting rid of the clutter to be left with only that which gives your brand value.
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Why do so few beauty brands hold a really strong position in the market? Most consumers are more excited about their next coffee break than a new beauty brand. Building a great beauty brand is not easy. Frankly, it is really hard work, but it isn’t magic.
Successful beauty companies know that strong beauty brands drive consumer purchases, loyalty, word-of-mouth and long-term repeat buying. Consumers need to hear your voice so they can gain an understanding of your brand story. Once they understand, they begin to connect. And if they connect emotionally, they build a preference—and preference builds loyalty. The key is they must understand your brand, and study after study proves that simplicity of message is the gateway to crossing that bridge to consumer understanding. However, getting to simplicity of message isn’t always an easy process. It’s a journey, not a destination, and it can often be a journey of two steps forward and one back.
The Long Simple List
There is no step-by-step guide to simplifying your brand’s voice, but I’ve compiled a list of ideas that should help anyone trying to find the simple life for a brand. 1. Make a list of the top four or five important messages.
Think about what’s really most important about your brand. What should the consumer value most? What four or five things do you most want every consumer to really know about your brand?
Simplifying starts with really knowing these priorities. “The five key things I want to say about my brand are … .”
2. Create a simplicity statement.
What do you want your simple brand life to look like? Write it out. “I simply want my consumer to know ... .”
3. Embrace a minimalist view.
A minimalist brand has what is necessary and not much else. Its inherent simplicity means it is easy to understand. Don’t tell the brand’s whole life story, just the relevant, memorable parts—the parts consumers will relate to emotionally.
4. Evaluate the commitments.
Look at everything you’ve got going on with your brand—all the messages, the looks, the images, the sponsorships, the spokespeople, the products, the line extensions, the target buyer, the product name and so forth. Which of these really gives value? Which ones are in line with the important things you listed above? Drop those things that aren’t in line.
5. Evaluate the time.
How does your brand spend its day? What is the brand aligned with? Make a list and evaluate whether it’s in line with your priorities. If not, eliminate the things that aren’t, and focus on what’s important. Redesign your brand. Don’t make your brand everything to everyone. Don’t sponsor Sundance when your consumer is more of a Golden Globe gal.
6. Learn to say no.
If you can’t say no, you then inevitably take on too much and put your brand in places where it’s not relevant. For example, don’t expand distribution into a door that doesn’t match the personality of your brand; it will only add confusion.
7. Purge your brand.
Get rid of old, irrelvant ideas and cut the excess. Does your sales staff wear outdated brand apparel? Is your trade show booth from the ᾽80s? Is the brand representation outdated? Purge. Purge. And purge some more.
8. Always ask: Will this simplify my brand’s voice? If the answer is no, simply reconsider.
Alisa Marie Beyer is CEO of The Benchmarking Company (TBC), a research and branding firm focused exclusively on the beauty industry. TBC’s women-only, permission-based Pink Panel provides beauty consumer data for the award-winning Pink Report, the quarterly research report that reveals what consumers of female beauty products want, what they’ll buy and why. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.benchmarkingco.com