My husband’s eyes opened wide with disbelief when I told him I wanted to paint yet another room white. “Really?” he questioned, “One more thing white?”.
Yes, absolutely! In the last years I’ve gravitated towards whiter spaces, whiter decor, less stuff on the walls. The noisier and more hectic the outside world gets, the more I feel a pull to create a calmer, cleaner space at home. The last books I got as presents were Minimalista and For the Love of White. That must say something!
Lots of studies have shown that something similar is happening with customers and brands. People are increasingly bombarded with colors and and messages. We have content fatigue. Overwhelmed, we’re drawn to cleaner, simpler concepts, colors and messages.
Today, to grab clients’ attention, your brand must be clear and compelling.
We know that people will decide whether to stay or leave your website in less than a second. Let that sink in for a moment. So, imagine that after that second they decide to stick around. After reading a few sentences for eight seconds, if they’re not interested, they’ll hit the eject button.
Overwhelmed and over-informed, we yearn for simplicity and clarity.
And, one of the cornerstones of a minimalist brand is clarity. Creating a minimalist brand is all about figuring out what the essentials are, and getting rid of everything else.
Brand confusion: why it happens
Brands cause confusion for several reasons:
- They lack a defined, clear brand personality that informs everything they do. So they mix and match ideas and tactics, and it all looks scotch-taped together.
- They have confusing, cluttered messages. Rather than focusing on the essential building blocks of a clear message, they end up rambling. Instead of focusing on their ideal client’s story, they talk too much about their own. The services they offer are described in great detail, but not in a way that’s relevant to their clients.
- Visual noise. People can become overwhelmed by too many colors, lines, sections, variations and typographies. There’s too much going on.
Clutter leads to brand confusion. And, when a client is confused, she will usually say no.
What is a minimalist brand?
At its core, minimalism has to do with freeing yourself of clutter, and focusing on what really matters.
In branding, minimalism is usually associated with aesthetics and a lot of white space. However, I’m using a broader definition of brand minimalism. Minimalist brands are defined by a clear, uncluttered strategy, message and visual identity. Because, there’s no point in having an uncluttered design, if the brand strategy and the messaging are noisy and confusing.
Why minimalist branding is the way to go
Here’s why clear, minimalist brands always win:
- The best global brands follow one consistent brand personality. Think of Coca-Cola, Chanel, Starbucks, Apple. They aren’t complicated, confusing or all over the place. The company knows what it stands for, what its clients are motivated by, and does not stray from that.
- As I mentioned, people will spend 8 seconds scanning your website to determine whether it’s appealing. So, the most effective brand messaging is short, clear, and concise. It connects with an ideal client’s desires and pain points.
- Finally, clean visual design is more effective. There are many studies that confirm the benefits of clean design, such as this one from 2017. It gets people to notice, stay and take action. Visual clutter makes people feel overwhelmed, so they move away from it. For years, the most successful global brands like Apple and Starbucks have been shifting to a more minimalist visual design, because it simply works better.
How do you actually build a minimalist brand?
It’s important to keep in mind that just because the result is a clear, uncluttered brand, it doesn’t mean creating a minimalist brand is easy.
To find out what the brand’s essentials are, and what is noise, requires burning lots of brain calories.
But it’s worth the effort. As Winston Churchill famously said: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter”.
Before we start, a quick visual:
First, declutter your brand strategy
Here are the steps to declutter your brand strategy.
– Choose ONE primary brand personality
This first one’s a biggie. Carl Jung, a famous psychologist, identified 12 universal personality types (or archetypes). Coca-Cola, Nike, Wholefoods, Harley Davidson, and other successful global brands are built around one of these primary brand personalities.
Therefore, your brand should be based on one primary personality, and maybe a secondary one. That wat, you won’t confuse and dilute your brand with a grayish mush of different personalities. I’ve created a brand personality quiz that you can take to discover your primary personality.
Your brand personality gives your brand direction and ensures everything is aligned and makes sense. With a clear personality, you’ll be able to identify what makes sense for your brand and clear out the clutter and noise.
– Choose ONE point of difference
OK, so you have your brand personality pinned down. How will you make your brand memorable and unique? When you leave a room, how do people describe you? Choose one point of difference for your brand, and CRANK UP THE VOLUME. Repeat it over and over.
Now, it’s important to align your brand personality with your point of difference.
Jenna Kutcher is all about authenticity, being real, and that’s completely aligned with her Friend-Next-Door personality.
Jenny Kayne, the lifestyle entrepreneur and interior designer, has built an empire around the concept of California-style, effortless luxury, totally in sync with her brand’s Innocent archetype.
Laura Belgray is a famous copywriter who built a $1M business on the concept of laziness (yes, really!) – which is aligned with her Jester brand personality.
So, choose ONE concept, the one thing people will remember about your brand when you leave the room. And repeat it over and over.
– Choose ONE ideal client
This is the third leg of a strong brand strategy. Choosing an ideal client, or niche, is a loaded topic. People want to avoid niching down for all kinds of reasons, mainly because they fear leaving out a potential client they could work with. There are also concerns that working with the same type of clients all the time will get boring.
But what’s boring about having a business that brings in a steady stream of clients? You need to speak directly to one type of client in order to touch people’s heartstrings. This has been proven again and again. Otherwise, your message will come across as vague, general, and not very compelling.
Amazon started only selling books. Ralph Lauren began selling ties from the trunk of his car. Starbucks began roasting only coffee beans. In other words, FOCUS. Declutter.
- Executive coaches may work with C-level executives.
- An interior designer might work with businesses that want a bold commercial space to create an impact.
- As a health coach, you may choose to work with busy moms who are interested in plant-based eating but don’t know how to implement it.
Focus on one niche and craft powerful, effervescent messages tailored to your target audience.
Second, declutter your brand message
Now, you know your brand personality, point of difference, and you have an ideal client in mind.
But what do you actually say?
Most brands use way too many terms and concepts to describe their products and services. Their service description changes every time, they say it in a different way, and they lack a clear narrative.
To declutter your brand message, you need to:
– Choose ONE rational problem you help for your ideal client solve.
This one’s pretty straightforward. Your clients come to you because they need something they don’t have. It could be better health. Or a promotion at work. Or a more beautiful home. Say what it is you help her get.
– Choose ONE emotional problem you help for your ideal client solve.
This is the more powerful part of your message. What is your ideal client really looking to feel when she comes to you? It’s something she doesn’t feel right now that she wants to feel.
It could be:
- Better health –> Feel more energetic when I’m with my kids, be a better mom.
- A promotion at work –> Recover my self-confidence and feel like I’m winning.
- A more beautiful home –> Feel the happiness of creating a beautiful life for my family.
Decisions are ALWAYS driven by this emotional desire. Keep yours close at hand! Keep repeating it in your messaging.
Also, show empathy. It’s important to show them that you understand their emotional struggles, whether it’s because you’ve felt them yourself and overcame them, or because you understand the issues that are driving them.
– Define why solving these problems matters
Why is it important that your client solves these problems?
Come up with a short sentence that shows why it’s important that this happens. Why you care.
Usually, these sentences start with “Should/ Ought/ Deserve”. For example:
- Women in their 30s deserve to feel energetic and healthy
- Executives shouldn’t be held back in their careers because of poor communication skills
- A beautiful home is the frame for your beautiful life
Also, how will your ideal client’s life change if you solve these problems?
Get clear on what success looks like. You may think your clients already know what how your service will change their lives. Well, they don’t. You need to be really clear describing how your service will make their business and their life better, in the short term and the long term. Describe it, make them close their eyes and imagine it. And say repeat it in all your brand messaging.
What’ll happen if these problems continue?
It’s important that your client solves the problems you’re helping her with, because otherwise:
- She’ll go on through life feeling zombie-ish and in a low mood
- While she’s still sitting at the same desk, she’ll watch her not-so-hardworking peer get promoted
- She’ll keep daydreaming about her dream house but never taking action
These are the essentials of your brand message. Rational problem. Emotional problem. Why it matters. To build your clear, minimalist brand, stick to these, and clean out everything else.
Third, declutter your visuals
This is where we get to what people typically associate with a minimalist brand.
The key point here is, SIMPLIFY your visuals. This doesn’t necessarily mean tons of white space. But it does mean:
– Choose one essential color
The best brands in the world don’t have 3 or 4 key colors. They have one. And maybe a secondary.
– Define ONE core logo
For some reason, many designers will hand over logo variations that are really different to the primary logo. Although it’s important to have different sized logos for different applications, please stick to one core logo. Don’t change the typography, shapes or colors in your logo variations. That only creates clutter and confusion.
– Clean up the visual noise
Try to keep logo designs simple. Keep the focus on communicating your brand’s primary personality and point of difference, and avoid trends and fads.
Keep the visuals of your minimalist brand clean. This doesn’t mean you need to use mainly white. But it DOES mean you should avoid overcrowding a space with too try to avoid visual clutter, with too many shapes, lines, squiggles. And try to stick consistently to your primary and maybe a secondary color.
So there you have it! Those are the essential building blocks for a clean, uncluttered, minimalist brand. Focus on these core things, and cut out everything else. It’ll make your brand easier to understand, clearer and more compelling. And, more importantly, it will get your clients to notice.
Are you ready to declutter and clarify your brand?