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Simplification in Marketing: Apple's Not-So-Secret Weapon

How is a company with only a handful of mobile products capable of outselling the hundreds of models their competitors are cranking out? The answer might be simplicity itself.
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The Challenge: We all know that Apple has been holding court over the mobile market for the past several years with various incarnations of the iPhone. But how is a company with only a handful of mobile products capable of outselling the hundreds of models their competitors are cranking out? The answer might be simplicity itself.

In a recent Corporate Executive Board(CEB) study, marketing simplicity was quantified using a "decision simplification index," which gauged "how easily consumers can understand (navigate) information about a brand, how well they can trust that information, and how readily they can weigh their options." It was indicated that a 20 percent increase in decision simplification resulted in a 96% customer loyalty increase, and made brands 86 percent more likely to be purchased and 115 percent more likely to be recommended.

In a world where consumers are being bombarded with thousands of marketing messages, it's easy to fall victim to information overload. That overflow often leads customers to overthink purchase choices, making dozens of micro-comparisons between virtually identical products.

Instead of confusing customers with similar factory specs, marketers should be simplifying the decision-making process and giving the consumer less choices to agonize over.

For a real-world example, let's look at Samsung, which features over 100 concurrent smartphones on its website, each with an encyclopedic list of factory specs. For most consumers, the amount of near-identical models and technical jargon only makes the purchase path more difficult to navigate.

Apple, on the other hand, only has one phone on their site. They tell you everything you need to know about it in plain, understandable language, not millimeters, megapixels, or megabytes. In short, they create a simple, easy-to-follow purchase path for their single product. And that one product has outsold all of Samsung's 100 phones combined in the past year.

Not surprisingly, Apple also has one of the highest decision simplification indices in the CEB study.


1. Help Consumers Navigate The Purchase Path.
Creating a clear and efficient purchase path requires marketers to minimize the number of information touchpoints consumers must traverse as they move towards purchasing.

2. Generate Trustworthy Information About Your Product.
In the context of decision simplification, trusting product information is more important than trusting the brand. Unbiased reviews given by trusted advisers (review bloggers, consumers' friends and family, etc.) are generally your best marketing asset.

3. Make It Easy For Customers To Weigh Their Options.
Cut down the number of available product choices. If that's impossible, create transparent buying guides with side-by-side product comparisons to help customers feel confident about their purchases. Or, even better, create step-by-step online decision guides that auto-generate the best choice for their needs.

About Ernan Roman Direct Marketing Corp., (ERDM):
ERDM provides Voice of Customer-driven Customer Experience Marketing consulting services for companies such as IBM, MassMutual, QVC, NBC Universal, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and Symantec Corp. They have conducted over 9000 hours of in-depth interviews with customers and prospects of these clients to gain an in-depth understanding of their expectations for a high value customer experience.
Ernan Roman, President, is recognized as an industry pioneer and was recently inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame for creating three transformational methodologies: Integrated Direct Marketing, Opt-in Marketing, and Voice of Customer Relationship Research.
He was also named by Crain's B to B Magazine as one of the "100 most influential people in Business Marketing".
His latest book on marketing best practices is titled, "Voice of the Customer Marketing: A Proven 5-Step Process to Create Customers Who Care, Spend, and Stay." 2010-12-08-ernan.jpg
Ernan is also the author of the widely read blog, "Ernan's Insights on Marketing Best Practices", (, and author of "Opt-in Marketing" and "Integrated Direct Marketing".