Top 10, global.

Top 10, global.

Top 10, global.

Top 10, global.

Top global.

Top global.

Top U.S.

Top U.S.

Money lost to consumers who say they’d pay a premium for simpler experiences.

Simpler brands equal profitable stocks.

An interesting side note, exploring the simplicity of our presidential candidates …

… along with an interesting breakdown of the complexity of social/political issues, as viewed by religious and non-religious people.


Google, Ikea, Apple: The World's 10 Simplest Brands

A new report quantifies design and marketing’s most deceptively elusive quality.

In good design and branding, we talk a lot about "simplicity," so much so that the word begins to feel like a lukewarm cup of coffee on our tongues. But the Siegel+Gale Global Brand Simplicity Index attempts to actually define simplicity by polling more than 6,000 consumers on the brands they find most simple (from the clarity of promotional materials to the usability of websites to the actual experience with the company’s products). The report then quantifies simplicity’s dollar value across industries. Their findings are enlightening.

The simplest brands, U.S.

Let’s start with the top 10 simplest brands* in the U.S.:

  1. Subway
  2. Dunkin’ Donuts
  3. Google
  4. Amazon
  5. Netflix
  6. Publix
  7. Apple
  8. McDonald’s
  9. Starbucks
  10. Zappos

Other than Publix—which feels like an outlier produced by a cohort of grandparents in Florida who respond to branding polls—that top 10 makes sense through and through. Subway’s $5 footlong campaign is marketing at its finest. Google’s main page is still an unadorned search bar. And even Starbucks is pretty navigable, once you get the vernacular down. At minimum, you know they sell coffee.

This top 10 represents some incredibly successful companies, so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that Siegel+Gale did find that consumers are willing to pay a premium for simpler experiences—an average of 3-4.1% more, or what could theoretically equate to $30 billion in revenue. The report singles out health insurance and banking as two industries standing to make the greatest gains from "simpler products and experiences."

But what may be even more telling is that social media, despite its meteoric rise to prominence in popular culture, was rated horribly. Twitter fell 23 spots to #93 overall. And Facebook is ranked #118 out of 125 brands, actually dropping 31 spots from last year’s branding index. One of the most recognizable brands in the world is getting destroyed in terms of creating a comprehensible product.

The simplest brands, globally.

"Users say they’re frustrated by Facebook’s ‘incomprehensible’ personal privacy policies, frequent changes to the interface, and a lack of usability in general," summarizes the report authors. "It’s just been one big ‘dislike’ for those seeking simplicity." (Zing.)

I can’t help but wonder if Facebook is a special case in our culture altogether. It’s less a company selling a good than it is a civil service providing an entire infrastructure for our digital lives. I’m not sure the average New Yorker would call their subway system "simple," but that doesn’t mean they’re going to start taking cabs everywhere.

So should simplicity be the end-all-be-all goal for companies? Maybe not. But if you’re selling meatball sandwiches for a living, it certainly won’t hurt.

* Many sectors were excluded. The study focused on brands "within the travel and hospitality, retail banking, and restaurant and grocery industries."

Get the full report here.

[Image: Billboard via Shutterstock]

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  • jmco

    Aldi wins hands down over all of these.
    The sign on the stores, which look like they could be any kind of small retail from the outside (when I saw it years ago, I thought it was some kind of rental store), tells you nothing. Just the name. You have to put 25 cents in a slot to unlock a shopping cart (you get it back when you return the cart). The store is bare bones. Not really any shelves Just 4 or so long isles. Mostly just staples for groceries and really low prices. (Think of it like a Trader Joe’s minus the fun and often a bit cheaper.)They do no advertising except a one page news print which comes in the mail with other cheap stores, occasionally. On check out, there are no bags, bring your own or, now, they sell bags. I think they only take cash or ATM cards. No CCs. The checkouts are also really bare bones and simple.Aldi inside reminds me more of a veterinary clinic or a state DMV office. It is a building with its function only. No frills. Cold. Machine like. Although, the products are fine if slightly odd looking. Most are Aldi in house brands. Honey, might come from different countries. But the Aldi Greek Yogurt is one of the best I have ever had!Somehow, they seem to do quite well. Especially in poorer areas and it is popular with penny pinchers. So white men over 35 who voted for Romney.I lived in a small city in the middle of major farm country. Aldi was Amish, working class mothers and families and retired people central. Then I moved to a major urban area. The Aldi close to the city is used by the poor, African Americans, and working class + retired people.

  • kfalter

    I'm originally from Florida as well -- and Publix makes total sense. I'm also 22, and I don't think it was a ton of grandparent clicking around :)

  • For Business

    Mark -

    Interesting report, but the criteria for "simplicity" is gray. Exactly how did S&G determine what made a brand "simple"? There is a lot about consumer perception and experience, but I'd like to see something actionable that brand marketers can do to get more "simple". It is complicated to get simple.

  • Laci Lewis

    "Should simplicity be the end-all-be-all goal for companies?" - not necessarily, but they will have more traffic if they are more user friendly - I know of 10 people off the top of my head who refuse to have facebook because it is too "complicated". 

  • Kristin Currier

    What Juliaburgi wrote. Publix rules. OK...their website ain't so hot perhaps, but I can't remember liking an everyday grocery store this much. Ever. Maybe it's the ubiquitous green logo everywhere. Maybe it's the humorous and minimalist way they design their own-store-brand. Maybe it's because they carry the brand through all the way to how clean and shoppable (usability!) their stores are. And it most certainly has something to do with how pleasant their service people are.

    A brand carries through an entire company culture and Publix has been excellent at this.

  • gilesmdavis

    +1 for Rachel. Coke is *the* simple global brand. 

    I also don't believe customers are buying "simple" so the implied dollar value feels tenuous to me. I'm giving this my vote of "no confidence"

  • Bill Dawson

    As "research" this is highly suspect. Essentially Siege+Gale has put out a 100 page advertisement claiming their expertise. For a company that claims "simplicity" as its stock and trade, this document is an overwrought list.

  • Christian Dicenso

    Second that. Their branding is worlds better than the nearby K-Roger, and even big-box Wal-Mart. Simple, effective and witty.

     Their commercials never fail to bring a tear at the holidays.

  • Juliaburgi

    WHOA WHOA WHOA! have you ever shopped at a publix? it beats almost every grocery store i've ever been to (granted, my experiences have been in dense urban centers where grocery stores inherently suck). i think their branded products are designed well are are generally higher quality than other supermarket brands.

  • Holly Marie Gibbs

    I'm from Florida, so Publix appearing on this list makes a lot of sense to me. They are consistently straightforward with both their brand and their policies, and customers are loyal to them beyond compare for a grocery store. They definitely deserve to be ranked highly here!

  • Foomandoonian

    I wonder how long Google will stay near the top of this list. They were once the very model of simplicity, but now I don't think even they know what they do. 

  • Foomandoonian

    Note to the Co.Design web team: Your comments look very pretty, but you've made the feature much harder to use than it needs to be. For starters, threaded comments are impossible.

  • Ergo

    Well played, Rome.
    I've wondered about Goole's spot here too. Sure, the home page is still what it's always been, but it doesn't take much looking to find articles referring to how the Chrome browser team doesn't seem to know what the Chrome OS team is doing, who in turn doesn't seem to have any contact whatsoever with the Android team. Makes you wonder if Glass will play nice with your Droid? Not a good thing to have to consider.

    It will be terribly interesting to see this report next year. With its new integrated OS design across every daily-use platform, I could see Microsoft being a serious winner in simplicity. Or Win8 could turn out to be unified in theory, but murky in daily use.

  • Foomandoonian

      Simply that Google started as a search/advertising company, but consider what they've become: A hardware company, software developer, app marketplace, mapping service, email provider, social network, entertainment brand (YouTube, Play), news provider, hosting service, merchant service (Wallet), technology developer (self-driving cars, Glass), digital library. That's a hastily drafted list, I'm sure there's more. Can they be all of these things and stay simple?

  • Jane Hiscock

    Was B2B left off of this on purpose because it wasn't offered by those interviewed or is it the belief that B2B by its nature is too complex.  I think there are some very strong and relatively simple B2B brands - IBM and Smarter Planet, for example. 

  • Mark Wilson

    It only includes brands "within the travel and hospitality, retail banking, and restaurant and grocery industries."