Magazine article Marketing

The New Simplicity

Magazine article Marketing

The New Simplicity

Article excerpt

From the pure colour palettes and clean lines of the Spring/Summer 2014 catwalk collections to the advent of 'slow technology', consumers are starting to embrace a new age of simplicity. Nicola Kemp asks whether marketers need to disconnect first if they are to better connect with their brand's target audience.

Information overload, big data, 'always on'; marketers are swamped with trends and terminology underlining the ever-increasing demands on our time. The pervasiveness of digital connectivity means more is more, not necessarily better. Marketers and consumers alike are dealing with an unprecedented wealth of information and data, with dramatic implications for communication and society.

In the face of this digital maelstrom, a growing tranche of data reveals that consumers are tiring of the 'always-on' culture that makes them increasingly reliant on their ever-present smartphone.

According to research from the Future Foundation, 44% of women and 32% of men like to be contactable on their mobile phones 'at all times' Notably this mobile dependency has decreased from 2008, when 60% of women and 54% of men liked to be always available.

Mark Comerford, co-founder of digital training organisation Hyper Island, says that when the dominant structures of the world change there is always a reactionary movement. The shift from the analogue to the digitally networked world is a fundamental reorganisation of the social and cultural norms.

'In the next 10 to 15 years we will set the parameter for how the world will look in the next 100 years. Now is the time to engage. People who choose to disconnect either feel threatened [by this change] or feel they can afford to take a step back to alleviate their personal anxiety,' he explains.

While many consumers find the unprecedented volume of choice and an increasing range of communication channels empowering, others are just overwhelmed. Coupled with the emotional fallout of the recession, the consequences of this information overload and consumers' subsequent flight to simplicity is a key trend for brands.

Russ Lidstone, chief executive of ad agency Havas Worldwide London, says that with the economy facing a 'great stagnation', British consumers are reassessing what's important to them and how they spend their money. 'This means they are more likely to aspire to simplicity, transparency and honesty, so these traditional values become more compelling. But the bottom line for the consumer is, 'What's in it for me?'' he explains.

The return of simple pleasures: 'No noise'

The flight to simplicity is a well-established consumer reaction to periods of social and economic flux. Carrie Hindmarsh, chief executive of ad agency M&C Saatchi, says that for the past few years consumers have been bombarded with a crescendo of links, ringtones and friend requests. 'When faced with this 'always-on', screen-based culture, there comes a time when people want to reconnect with the world around them.'

Jonathan Trimble, chief executive of creative agency 18 Feet & Rising, believes this shift has benefited organisations such as the National Trust. However, the fear that young people are increasingly out of touch with the real world and suffering from a 'nature deficit disorder' remains a niche trend. 'Only a small percentage of consumers have the guts for 'Facebook suicide'; for the most part, we see families with the mum upstairs and the daughter downstairs messaging each other on Facebook,' he explains.

Nonetheless, several brands are already tapping into this 'simple pleasures' trend. Department store Selfridges, for example, launched its 'No noise' campaign in January, debranding well-known products and paying homage to minimalist design with a 'quiet shop' designed to give consumers respite in a world full of commercial clutter.

Jim Whyte, senior insights analyst at design consultancy Fitch, believes that embracing the concept of providing downtime is key to capitalising on this desire for simplicity. …

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