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🧠Why simplicity is your secret weapon (plus a free marketing simplification checklist)

Hi there - Jen here :)

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the amount of information and choice you have to deal with every day?

You aren't alone - each day the average human has to make thousands of decisions.

But no one wants to feel confused, anxious, and overwhelmed.

That's why it's critical that we make our experiences clear and simple for customers.

There’s also a strong business case for simplicity.

Consultancy Siegel+Gale releases a yearly Simplicity Index that ranks brands with the simplest experiences.

They found that experiences with fewer steps, options, and choices:

  • Drive word-of-mouth: 64% of customers are more likely to recommend brands with simple experiences

  • Drive growth: A stock portfolio made up of S+G's "simplest" brands outperformed the market average by 686%.

  • Drive sales: 35% of customers are willing to pay more for simple experiences

It’s all down to a psychological principle known as the Simplicity Theory.

Today I’m sharing:

  • What is the Simplicity Theory and why does it work?

  • How to make your marketing Cognitively Fluent

  • When simplicity works best (and when it doesn’t work at all)

  • My 5-Question Simplification Checklist to help you quickly identify the areas where simplification will make the biggest impact (premium subscribers only)

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🧠 What is the Simplicity Theory?

This principle says that people prefer simple experiences because they minimize their cognitive load - in other words, simple experiences make people think less.

Steve Jobs and Apple are the typical examples of simplicity in marketing.

Jobs worshipped simplicity, and many credit his ruthless focus for success of Apple.

In fact, when he rejoined after getting fired as CEO he famously conducted a simplification exercise that saved the company from bankruptcy. 

Simplicity works because of a principle called Cognitive Fluency.

This describes the ease with which our brains process information.

How easy (or hard) it is to process information influences our judgments, memories and decisions.

When information is cognitively fluent, it means it's easy to think about, understand, and remember.

🧠 How to make your marketing Cognitively Fluent:

Fluency can make your marketing 10x more effective - here’s how to use it. Start by asking yourself questions like:

  • How simple is the language and experience?

  • How distinct is the brand identity (in other words, does it look and feel different than other brands)?

  • How familiar are customers with the experience, brand or message?

  • How often is our message repeated (or how many times have we seen it)?

  • How consistent are the images and messaging we use across the customer journey?

One way to quickly and easily measure Cognitive Fluency in your marketing is to use a Salience AI (like I do with my Choice Hacking consulting clients).

This tool helps you understand how much cognitive demand you’re putting on customers (and what they’re paying attention to).

Take this McDonald’s ad for example - there’s lots of distracting copy and legalese that ads extra visual information:

But what happens when we simplify this poster?

That looks much better - but is it more cognitively fluent?

Let’s use our Salience AI to find out:

  • On the left: Too much information overwhelms the customer and spreads their attention too thin.

  • On the right: A simpler message concentrates attention in the right places and its easier to understand - it’s more cognitively fluent.

To learn more about this Salience AI and how I use it to make my clients’ marketing more effective, check out this article.

Another tool I use for testing copy is simple (and free) - it’s called Hemingway. It’s an AI tool that analyzes your writing and assigns it a grade level.

I try to keep all of my copy under a Grade 6, but your copy’s level will vary depending on your industry and audience.

When Simplicity Works, and When It Doesn’t

Applying Simplicity requires a bit of nuance:

  • Your customers’ income matters: “Minimalism” in product packaging and messaging works better for higher-income customers, while lower-income customers are more concerned about quantity over quality. [Source]

  • How busy someone is impacts how simple they want their ads to be: When people are busy, they like simple ads more than complex ones. Being busy makes people want to relax, which in turn makes them want to avoid ads that are hard to understand. [Source]

  • When a deadline is approaching, people prefer simple ads: People’s preference for simple ads is stronger when they’re reminded of an upcoming end or deadline. For example, a simple ad about the deadline to file a US tax return (April 15th) would be more effective than a complicated one. [Source]

🧠 The lesson?

“Keep things simple” is a good guiding principle in most cases, but don’t forget to account for the context in which people will see your ad (economic, environmental or otherwise).

Want to learn more about applying Simplicity?

👉 Premium subscribers can download my 5-Question Simplification Checklist for free today.

(Just scroll to the end of the email to find the download link)

3 Second Survey:

Would you be interested in a set of 80+ printed cards to help you better run workshops, brainstorm, etc. that cover common behavioral biases, motivators, customer barriers, nudges, and mindsets? I'm just gauging interest at this time :)

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Read, Watch, Listen

  • [Read] McDonald’s Is Loving Simplicity [Read]

  • [Watch] The Psychology of Luxury Customers [Watch now]

  • [Listen] Listen to latest episode of the Choice Hacking podcast “How Aldi used psychology to grow so fast” [Check it out]

Until next time,

Jen Clinehens
Founder & MD Choice Hacking

Want to use behavioral science, psychology, and AI to grow your business? When you’re ready, Choice Hacking can help:

  • Training: We can help your employees learn the nuts and bolts of applied behavioral science, become more persuasive presenters using psychology and predictive AI, and even polish their leadership skills with the power of evidence-based approaches. [Learn more]

  • Consulting: I can help you apply behavioural science, AI, and psychology with a Customer Journey Map, Customer Insights Report, Website Audit, or a Bespoke Project.

  • Coaching: Looking for clarity, focus, and confidence in your marketing? Behavioral Science-powered 1-on-1 Coaching is a good match for you [Learn more]

  • Courses: Marketing courses that upgrade your skills

    so you can stand out from the crowd - get a certificate and a new skill for your resume, in only a few hours [Learn more]

👉 Premium Subscribers, here’s your free 5-Question Simplification Checklist 👇

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