What Does Simplicity Mean to You?

December 19, 2018

Siegel Gale Simplicity

Editor's Note: This guest post was contributed by Margaret Molloy, Global CMO of Siegel+Gale.

In a world of unlimited choice, consumers are prioritizing simplicity more than ever before. Unnecessary complexity means consumers are embracing brands that make their lives easier. And these brands all share a common trait—simplicity is at the heart of the experiences they deliver.

The irony though for brand leaders who are trying to pioneer simplicity is that it isn’t easy. It can be easily misunderstood, difficult to execute and reliant on context. However, research shows that customers, employees and investors reward it.

To further appreciate the meaning of simplicity, we’ve interviewed dozens of CMOs to understand how they define it. Over the course of these interviews, one lesson endures—behind strong brands are leaders who understand simplicity and know how to operationalize it.

Here we asked 12 leaders for their particular take on what simplicity means to them. Given their commitment to simplicity, we like to think of these CMOs as Simplifiers.

Simplifiers Interview: Alicia Tillman, CMO, SAP

Simplicity requires dreaming big and putting a plan in place to make that dream a reality. We all have dreams, but often don’t have enough plans. The raw motivation that comes from an exciting dream doesn’t last forever.

Planning is absolutely a measure of your ability to drive simplicity. When you think about the measures that need to be taken to accomplish a goal, the complexity begins to unravel. It forces you to confront questions such as: How clear is your vision? How prepared are you? How strong are you at staying accountable?

Simplifiers Interview: Linda Boff, CMO, GE

A simple company puts the customer at the center and thinks about how its offerings map to its customer and its market. A simple company has a purpose and values that are clear and translate to what they do seamlessly.

Simplifiers Interview: Liza Landsman, former President and Sumaiya Balbale, VP of Marketing, Jet.com

Distillation of understanding your customers’ needs. When Michelangelo created the Pietà, he said he had to find the statue in the stone. With simplicity, you have to get rid of all the distracting and excess stuff around it to reveal the truth.

Simplifiers Interview: Sheryl Adkins-Green, CMO, Mary Kay, Inc.

Start by understanding what your biggest fans love about the experience you provide. Once you understand the essence of what people want from your brand, this will serve as a starting point from which to simplify your priorities moving forward.

Simplifiers Interview: Deirdre Bigley, CMO, Bloomberg

Simplicity is taking something complex and boiling it down to its essence. Nothing feels simple in the beginning—everything is big and hairy. Simplicity is taking those things that feel complex and working them down until you have a solution that can be executed quickly, easily and successfully. Simplicity is never done.

Simplifiers Interview: Andrea Riley, CMO, Ally Financial

Simple experiences are those that work the way you expect them to work, the way they should work.

Simplifiers Interview: Jared Cluff, CMO, Blue Apron

Simplicity is about focus. I’m a big believer in the 80/20 rule—if we ruthlessly prioritize and dedicate our time to only those things that matter, we’ll have the greatest impact.

Simplifiers Interview: Norman de Greve, CMO, CVS Health

An experience that is three things – something easy to understand, easy for customers to use, and easy for lines of business to adopt and replicate.

Simplifiers Interview: Henry Gomez, EVP – Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Clear and rapid decision-making.

Simplifiers Interview: Leslie Berland, CMO, Twitter

Simplicity means delivering an intuitive and breakthrough experience. It doesn’t have to be a major breakthrough but should be engaging enough to rise above the noise. Simplicity is extraordinarily hard and complicated to create behind the scenes. It’s a science and an art that takes constant evaluation and reevaluation.

Simplifiers Interview: Lorraine Twohill, CMO, Google

Peace. I think life has gotten very complex. There’s an awful lot going on—be at peace with realizing you’re human and can’t do it all.

Simplifiers Interview: David Edelman, CMO, Aetna

There are two sides to simplicity: One, when I want to self-serve I can go online and get my task done autonomously. Two, if I call in, a representative will handle what I need done without me having to do additional work.

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Photo: Vishwas Krishna