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Brendan Flattery

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What's the Anti-Matter With Complexity?

Posted: 03/01/2013 10:29

Brands beware - there is pent-up consumer demand for simplicity and transparency.

To many it's a scary idea. A company that knows us so intimately it can give us what we want, almost before we know it ourselves. Google has, in recent years, come under increasing attack for the alleged manner in which it gains and uses the mountain of data it has on us all.

As has Wal-Mart for what some people see as the high cost of its low prices for suppliers and the world at large.

To an extent, this 'megalophobia' (that's the fear of large objects to you and me) is an inherent reaction to anything that gets too big and complex - which may even be understandable given the scale, reach and intelligence of today's most successful global businesses.

What's particularly interesting though is how brands can take advantage, either consciously or unconsciously, of the perceived faults of their competitors.

I'm not talking about the 'small businesses competing with big businesses' issue here. Although it's worth noting there are advantages smaller businesses possess, as our own omnibus survey showed: agility, social media and personal service. Rather, I mean the apparent public penchant for 'Anti-Brands'.

One notable example of which is DuckDuckGo, a site which was chosen as one of Time magazine's Websites of 2011 as well as garnering more recent attention here in the UK.

Philadelphia based founder Gabriel Weinberg has rightly recognised that whilst the public has an appetite for an endlessly innovative and cutting edge search engine, there was corresponding pent-up demand for a simple and transparent alternative.

Where DuckDuckGo's competitors fill their pages with ads and track queries to anticipate user-behaviour, DuckDuckGo has an uncluttered interface and powerful no-tracking privacy policy that's drawing in large numbers of users after its core search offering, and nothing more.

Of course the anti-brand movement isn't anything particularly new - it was first articulated by Naomi Klein in her 1999 book, No Logo. This is something different however. It's not about businesses breaking their brand promises, although obviously the days are gone when firms could say they were one thing and act like another and expect to get away with it. Or at least escape serious scrutiny.

This is about businesses having their antennae tuned to what customers - different customers - want, and recognising the value of an offering that caters accordingly.

For example, Costco has been called The Anti-Walmart, because its average employee salary is twice that of the Arkansas giant, and because where CostCo sells only four toothpaste brands, Walmart sells 60.

I believe this trend is something we will see more and more in all markets, but especially in tech. The world is becoming increasingly complex, and customers, much as they want advanced products, also want respite from that complexity. Such is the thinking behind Sage One for example, a version of our accounting software designed specifically for those that don't have time for training or jargon.

Today it is absolutely essential to recognise the section of your customer base that need, above all else, a clear and simple way to get things done.

The question is - does your business offer them that?

 

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