From its beginnings in 1997 as a pay-per-rent DVD delivery service, Netflix has relentlessly invested in simplicity. ALDI, the fast-growing German discount grocery chain, keeps it simple with a no-frills store design and a curated, on-point selection of goods. And after 20 years, could anything remain simpler than a Google search?

Today, we announced that Netflix has been named the world’s simplest brand in our annual World’s Simplest Brands study based on a survey of more than 15,000 people worldwide. The study, now in its eighth year, not only measures the role of simplicity in brand experience but the value it brings. Netflix – with its keen sense of culture and consumer desires – topped the Index for the first time, followed by ALDI and Google. Tech brands, retail, and quick-serve restaurants dominated this year’s global rankings. The common thread? Brands that make a very clear promise and then deliver on it consistently stand out.

Political divisions, an economy changing rapidly as it transforms to the digital age, and cultural shifts that seem to outpace both – as the Index findings attest, consumer expectations are turning to brands in search of simplicity in a sea of complexity. Brands that deliver on it reap rewards. Most people – 55 percent in our study – are willing to pay more for simpler experiences. And 64 percent are more likely to recommend a brand that delivers simpler experiences.

So, how did Netflix climb from No. 4 on our 2017 global Index to No. 1?  Finding and consuming entertainment content is as easy as opening the app and pressing Play. The magic of the platform is invisible to the user, with algorithms that track your viewing patterns, eliminating the decision-making process of what to watch next. And now, it’s not only serving up content but creating it. In 2018, after receiving more Emmy nominations than any other network, cable provider, or streaming service, Netflix took home 23 awards, tying with HBO for the most Emmys.

That focus resonates among all the movers and shakers in this year’s global rankings. Simple search continues to deliver for Google, and it earned the first appearance for German online booking platform Trivago – which allows travelers to effortlessly search over 1.3 million hotels in over 190 countries to find the ideal hotel at the best price. Also making its debut in the global ranking is streaming service Spotify – a fan favorite for simplifying access to their favorite music at any time.



Keeping it Simple in Real Life

As brick and mortar brands continue their reinvention in the digital age, international grocers and retailers delivering on simplicity are making a real mark on our Index, edging out their US counterparts.

With clear communications, affordable prices and premium private label products, for example, German discount grocers ALDI and Lidl are regulars in our global Top 10. With 1,600 stores in the US, ALDI is on track to become the third-largest grocer in the US by store count by 2022, behind Walmart and Kroger. In a challenging climate for fashion brands, meanwhile, the simplicity and quality philosophy of Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo strikes a chord for consumers worldwide.

Interestingly, two U.S. quick-serve food brands – Subway and McDonald’s – are hitting the right stride with simplicity and earned spots on our global Top 10. As part of an ongoing brand refresh, Subway unveiled “Fresh Now,” an $80 million investment in emphasizing a more personalized guest experience. And McDonald’s remains a perennial high-performer on the list. The universal symbol of the Golden Arches and the Big Mac –now preservative-free – is bringing in guests in a fast-changing dining world.

Whether it’s an in-store experience, video streaming or listening to music, our research once again demonstrates that simplicity pays. Since 2009, a stock portfolio of the simplest global brands has outperformed the average of the major indexes by 686 percent. We want to hear your thoughts and encourage you to visit this year’s rankings to see more country and industry insights: