How Simple is Your Brand?

Posted on October 24th 2012

How Simple is Your Brand?

What does the world’s simplest brand have in common with one of the world’s least simple brands? They’re both Google. Though to be fair, the Google brands are search and Google+. (I’ll let you guess which one is simpler.) According to the 2012 Global Brand Simplicity Index released by Siegel+Gale at last week’s Pivot Conference in New York City, while Google is the world’s simplest brand, Google+ is seen as only slightly simpler than global health provider Bupa and financial services firm Allianz.

In a study that spanned over 6000 participants across seven countries, search brands did much better than social ones measured by perceived simplicity. The “Brand Simplicity Score” was calculated in a few ways: how brands were rated on their simplicity/complexity relative to their competitors; consistency of brand experiences; and how close the perceptions non-users of the brands matched those of the brand users. By such metrics as “Useful to me”, “Transparent/Honest”, and “Easy to understand”, search brands decidedly outpaced social media ones. In fact, internet search was unanimously considered the most simple global industry of all 25 industries in all seven regions, while social media tied with fitness in the bottom 10.

But Google+ doesn’t hold a monopoly on complexity. In comparison, LinkedIn and Facebook would be envious of Goolge+’s position in the simplicity index. (Both ranked as even less simple.) And for all their relative simplicity, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest were ranked slightly better, but not much.

The analysis presented by Siegel+Gale’s Global Strategy Director Russ Meyer and Global Director, Research Insights Brian Rafferty suggested that “Search is simple because it’s easy to use and intuitive” from study participant quotes like “[Bing] gives you direct results” and “Google makes searching much easier”. But other quotes like “Compared to other websites, Facebook’s interface is horrible…” and “Have never found a good explanation of how [Google+] differs/is similar to regular Google” led Meyer and Rafferty to come to the conclusion that “Social is complex because its purpose is often unclear and privacy issues prevail.”

Depressing though the perception of social might be, it’s still important to consider just how vital Google considers its progress in social (last year, CEO Larry Page famously tied 25% of every employee’s annual bonus to their success in social), and Facebook’s now billion plus active users were arguably seen as worth $100 each when it had the largest tech IPO in history and the third largest, ever.

And one last takeaway: over the past three years, Siegel+Gale’s “Simplicity Portfolio” outperformed the average global stock index by over 99%, and was up in general by 190%. Even with Google+.

Adam Chapman

Adam Chapman

Adam was the managing editor for Social Media Today.

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Posted on October 24th 2012 at 3:19PM

I'm finding this concept of "search" vs "social media" really interesting and one I never considered before until very recently as people have been raising the issue.  The research study you mentioned was very interesting.  As someone who has done an insane amount of medical and psychological research and statistical analysis, I'm looking forward to reading the actual study.  Thanks for the links.