On simplicity: Why being creative can mean doing things simply.
By Dr Ben Voyer, Associate Professor at ESCP Business School
When people talk about creativity, they say that it is about ‘thinking out of the box’, ‘breaking the rules’, or ‘being different’. And they are certainly right. Yet, people often associate creativity with complex innovations, technical or not. But is creativity necessarily the opposite of simplicity? In this post, I want to draw readers’ attention to how marketers can be creative by taking things back to the ‘simple’ level.
Marketers often think that customers perceive new lines of products or complex features on products as a sign of creativity. And that such creativity is valued and results in increased sales. But why always make things more complex? When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, one of the first things he did was to simplify Apple’s line of products. Actually, he only kept four products, following a simple 2 x 2 matrix: user (professional vs. consumer) and type of computer (desktop vs portable). Brilliantly simple! Another interesting example of simplicity in a product is a Swedish project called ‘Mute Watch’. The designers offered a watch so simple that it simply looks like a bracelet. Touch the invisible display, and it lightens and shows you what time it is. Even better, it shows the time when you turn your wrist 90° to look at it.
Simplicity, as Charlie Chaplin put it, is not a simple thing. Reinventing products creatively – and simply – is often a real challenge, meaning trying to find ways to chase the unnecessary, devoting a lot of thinking to finding what the essence of the product is, and ways to bringing more value to customers by doing less. Isn’t it precisely what creativity is about?
So the next time you want to be creative about your marketing strategy, ask yourself what you could simplify in it, rather than what you could add!
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