Six degrees of simplicity

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They say that everything goes better with bacon.

Apparently, as Google revealed this month, they think so too. For its latest Easter egg, the company added a search feature to its main site based on the popular Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon trivia game. Type “bacon number” into the search field, followed by an actor’s name, and you’ll soon see that actor’s degree of separation from Mr. Bacon.

More than just a fun diversion, the bacon number feature builds brand loyalty by continuing to do what the company does best—simplify the world through connections (and a bit of humor).

It’s this simplification, and Google’s simplicity overall as a company, that we truly admire at Siegel+Gale. In fact, the company ranked number one in our 2011 Global Brand Simplicity Index and is certain to place well in our upcoming Global Brand Simplicity Index for 2012.

So let’s have a little fun here, six degrees-meets-simplicity style.

Imagine that brand experience is the center of the business world, much like Kevin Bacon is the center of the entertainment world. Since Kevin Bacon has a bacon number of 0, the ideal brand experience—excelling at all manners of simple communications—must have a “simplicity number” of 0. Following this system, all real-world brands’ simplicity numbers are commensurate with their success at attaining brand experience simplicity. The closer a company’s brand experience is to the ideal experience, the lower its simplicity number is.

Using our 2011 Global Brand Simplicity Index, we begin to see how various brands stack up. At the ends of the spectrum, from simplest to most complex, are Google and GE. Google, with its remarkably high Brand Simplicity Index (BSI), has a simplicity number of 1. The most complex brand experience falls to GE, with its simplicity number of 6. Hovering around the middle is Facebook, with a simplicity number of 3.

These three brands share one major thing in common—they all offer ever-increasing products and services that span a diverse range of global industries. Although most of us can only name a fraction of what these monolithic companies offer, why do we perceive one as an infinitely simpler, and therefore more accessible, brand experience?

The answer boils down to the amount of confusion and frustration that we experience when interacting with a brand. Each moment spent navigating through inexplicable inconsistencies and off-putting oversights lessens the brand experience. While it’s impossible to foster a brand whose experiences satisfy all audiences all the time (especially given the increasing visibility and influence of peer reviews), companies can come closer by reducing the real and perceived complexity of all touch points. Some brands just let the machine roll, but Google keeps it simple with its perpetually pithy entry point and consistently well-considered sub-brand designs and launches. As a result, its value has gone up, its profits have gone up and its audiences keep returning for experiences that are often comfortable and sometimes delightful.

You could say that everything goes better with simplicity.

Miles Seiden is a senior designer for the Siegel+Gale Los Angeles office.

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