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Trendspot: Simplicity Marketing from Apple, Nintendo, and UPS

I2m_ups_whiteboard2 Like anyone else, I find Steve Job’s product launch presentations to be mesmerizing.  Apple is certainly getting their mileage out of his typically irresistable keynote performance from Macworld, where Jobs announced the iPhone – marketing the download from the homepage of the iTunes store and probably getting millions of downloads already.  Yesterday evening, I also saw another TV spot for the new UPS Whiteboard campaign – dedicated to simplifying the process of international shipping and how UPS can help your business.  Nintendo has also gotten into the simplicity game with their new Wii – using a combination of their website and branded consumer experiences in retail locations to help spread the word about the game console.  Philips has received a lot of credit for restructuring their entire product development teams around the core tenets of simplicity and making this a core part of their corporate culture.  There is a trend in all this, but it’s not about the necessity of making products simpler. 

There are plenty of products that we use on a daily basis that are not simple. The QWERTY keyboard is the classic example, having been laid out to actually slow down fast typing by separating the most commonly used letters – but since then we have learned to use it and adapted to it.  Many top selling consumer electronics gadgets further prove this rule.  The point is, people adapt to non-intuitive interfaces, especially when they have no other options.  The real lesson is about simplicity in marketingUsing simplicity to sell is now an imperative, and one that can actually cut through the clutter.  No one adapts to marketing that isn’t simple … it just gets ignored.  Simple stories, on the other hand, are easy to understand and pass along.  They are the essence of a message without the ego of the creative.  They are concepts that respect their audience by not wasting their time.  As an example, just compare the UPS effort to an ad that aired right after it during the NFL playoffs last night, the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot ad for Dodge Ram – where two robots are boxing and then the winner goes on to attack a Dodge Ram and loses.  What’s the simple message there – that if my car is ever attacked by boxing robots, I should buy a Dodge Ram?  Aside for standing out for it’s lack of relevance, that ad doesn’t make the simplicity connection.  It has no insight. 

When Steve Jobs tells the story of an interface, it makes sense.  When he goes "boom" – it’s the most natural thing in the world to hear.  UPS simplifies what many business owners believe is an extremely complex task – international shipping.  Nintendo is the anti-game console for an audience that won’t go out and buy the latest Alienware desktop system with supercomputer processing power just for gaming.  Sure, product simplicity and innovation is part of the message.  But more and more, the most successful marketing campaigns are those that focus on telling a story  simply and clearly.  Now there’s an idea: cutting through the clutter without needing to raise your voice or blindly throw more dollars at advertising creative.  Sounds too simple.

4 thoughts on “Trendspot: Simplicity Marketing from Apple, Nintendo, and UPS”

  1. Rohit, you are on point with this one. Simplicity is an under-utilized tactic in marketing, but one that can work wonders when used correctly. In this modern & fast-paced society, nobody has time to listen to complicated messages… nor the motivation to comprehend them.
    So then how do you go about reaching out to the modern public? Simplicity is key, but there are two counterparts worth mentioning.
    The first is relevance. You mentioned this, but I think you understated its value. I am not speaking just about product relevance, I mean relevance to the customer. After knowing which product he/she is being marketed, the customer must know why it is, or should be, important to them.
    The final piece to this marketing puzzle is creativity. Creativity is absolutely essential to creating a buzzworthy message. You mentioned the Dodge ad as a bad example of a good commercial. I agree with you, but for a different reason… Creativity is missing. Toyota ran a similar ad in which their trucks portrayed extraordinary strength and durability. Not only did Dodge run a similar ad, but they made it worse than the original.
    Anyway, the real lesson is about simplicity… and relevance, and creativity in marketing. Master and integrate this trio, and success is inevitable.

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About Rohit

A keynote speaker on trends, innovation, marketing, storytelling and diversity.

Rohit Bhargava is on a mission to inspire more non-obvious thinking in the world. He is the #1 Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of eight books and is widely considered one of the most entertaining and original speakers on disruption, trends and marketing in the world.

Rohit has been invited to keynote events in 32 countries … and over the past year, given more than 100 virtual talks from his home studio. He previously spent 15 years as a marketing strategist at Ogilvy and Leo Burnett and also teaches marketing and storytelling as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.

He loves the Olympics, actively hates cauliflower and is a proud dad of boys.

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