Creating a simple brand image can be quite complicated—but it may also pay off.

Four years ago, one branding and marketing company set out to prove that consumers really do value simplicity. Siegel+Gale began surveying thousands of individuals across six countries as a part of its annual Global Brand Simplicity Index. “We’ve been happy to see that for four years in a row, the brands that are simplest are the ones that people are most likely to recommend,” says Brian Rafferty, global director of customer insights at Siegel+Gale. “They’re also the ones that perform the best financially from store performance, and they’re also the ones people are willing to pay a premium for.”

This year’s survey included 10,000 respondents in the U.S., United Kingdom, Germany, the Middle East, India, and China, providing feedback on 25 industries and 525 brands. Responses were used to compile industry and brand rankings globally and within each country’s market. Restaurants ranked third globally and second in the U.S., revealing that a simple brand image resonates with diners. Of the restaurant brands most praised by respondents for a simple brand image, quick serves reigned—particularly McDonald’s, which placed fourth globally and third in the U.S. across all 525 brands.

“In some ways, quick service was sort of the inventor of simplicity, at least from a food standpoint,” Rafferty says. “I think it’s inherent to the category.”

He says that simplicity for quick serves encompasses a clear brand message and purpose, the ability to innovate, and a menu with just enough choice. “That’s another thing quick serves do well, which is basically giving people just the right amount of choice,” Rafferty says. “They feel like they’re not given too much that they feel overwhelmed or don’t know where to look.”

The Golden Arches, it seems, does this best. Rafferty says much of that has to do with the brand’s ability to remain relevant and fresh. “I think McDonald’s has… done a fantastic job at not resting on its laurels and always retaining that leadership through the prevalence of its communication, but also through updating lots of its environments,” he says. “One of the things that we saw from a global standpoint that McDonald’s does well is always recognizing the differences in local cuisine.” Its ability to present local markets with unique menu items may be the reason it ranked with consistency nationally and globally while other brands did not.

Nationally, the quick serve behemoth is followed by Subway at No. 4, Dunkin’ Donuts at No. 6, Starbucks at No. 10, Pizza Hut at No. 11, Burger King at No. 13, and KFC at No. 14. Globally, it was followed by KFC at No. 5, Pizza Hut at No. 10, Burger King at No. 11, Subway at No. 15, and Starbucks at No. 17.

All of these brands, however, are doing something right when it comes to a simple brand image—and the survey shows that can translate to the bottom line. “We see that not only do the brands that get seen as simplest have the ability to charge more, but people are willing to pay more if they provide even simpler and better communications and products and services,” Rafferty says.

The survey reveals that respondents would pay 5.2 percent more at a restaurant with a simple brand image. That could mean good business for the Golden Arches as it rolls out its new value menu.

By Tamara Omazic

Consumer Trends, News, McDonald's