Can a Brand Be 'Minimalist'?
Minimalism in Advertising
Advertising has been the lifeblood of business for generations. Brands have used all kinds of advertising tricks to tempt our attention. There is practically no way to avoid the bright, flashy ads that pop up everywhere you look. Even on social media feeds, ad spending is projected at $229 billion in 2022 because that is where everyone is hanging out.
When consumers complain about this flow of ads, companies respond by trying to adjust their marketing efforts using a more minimalist approach. They tone down the overflow of information and hyper-target branding with a universal identity that is easy to consume and remember. However, the end goal is still to sell products. Our society has become so consumer-focused that at this point, 43% of the viewers for the Super Bowl are there for the commercials, not the game.
Why does this matter? Around the early 2000s, major brands started to pull back from bright and flashy identity towards a more minimalist approach. Companies like Apple, Google, and even Windows decided to use sleek logos and simple marketing so their messaging would cut through the competition. Their goal was to respond to customer complaints about vibrant marketing and complicated stories by reducing their imagery to simplistic and minimalistic approaches.
In response, minimalist branding became a new trend in marketing. Soon other brands began following Apple’s lead. They started cutting down the number of colors in their logos or sticking to a single spokesperson for all their ads.
While this minimalistic approach seems logical, it creates an interesting problem. A consumer company must sell to survive, so isn’t a minimalistic approach just another way to trick a buyer? Can a brand be truly ‘minimalist’ when at its core, minimalism is all about reducing an item down to its core intrinsic value?
Is Authenticity Possible with a Minimalist Brand?
Consumerism is in many ways the natural enemy of minimalism. The success of a brand can be measured in its ability to sell products. The function of a business is to earn money, so how can we trust their branding is authentic when we know the underlying point is to encourage us to make a purchase?
It comes down to the core value generated by the product or service. For example, we are a business centered on premium men’s Pima cotton t-shirts. Our “brand,” in this case, is the person that wants to simplify the choices in their wardrobe by focusing on high-quality fabrics and classic designs that have stood the test of time.
That sounds authentic, and we know we are product-focused because we started our business to solve our problem first. So how do we convey that message to you without sounding like a sales pitch?
Even Apple, the leader of minimalism in a highly consumer-driven market, uses a brand image that may be inauthentic. There is an undeniable status symbol to Apple products that is attached to the higher value and price point. Even though Samsung, a major Apple competitor, sold more phones during the last quarter of 2017, Apple still received 87% of total smartphone profits. That is largely because they can charge a higher premium due to the emotional attachment of a loyal fan base. Their marketing may be minimalistic, but the consumer driven brand association is certainly one of elitism and scarcity.
This is evidence that a minimalist brand works with consumers and builds an emotional relationship between product and buyer, but what if Apple focused on just the benefits of their product. Remove the years of die-hard fandom and stick to just the product features. Would that result in a more authentic brand image if it did not have the exclusivity undertone?
The Sincerity of Minimalist Messaging
We believe the power of a brand should be from the quality of its products or services. There will always be marketing and advertising tricks that psychologically convince buyers to engage with a brand. When a child sees a bright wrapper around a candy bar, they immediately ask their parents to make a purchase, even if they have no idea what the candy tastes like.
As we grow, we learn the true definition of value. We begin to understand how important the quality of a product is compared to our spending power and start to seek out brands that offer relatable stories that are easy to understand.
When you can find a product you know will be reliable, you stick to it. How many times have we picked up a tool, kitchen appliance, or even a mug from our grandparents' generation and been amazed at the quality compared to today’s products? Would those brands work just as well if they were thrown into the highly competitive world of the digital age? Would they be viewed as hypocritical for trying to leverage the minimalist trend?
Quality Should Speak More than Image
We’d like to think a brand can be built on the features of a product because that is what we are providing - true quality. Our company focuses on selling men’s t-shirt bundles that are centered around the idea of intentional living rather than hiring a famous celebrity to bolster our brand image.
We want you to engage with our brand because of the authentic, tangible quality of the premium t-shirts we sell. These items are priced higher than what you would find in a big box store, not because of exclusivity, but because they are made from premium materials that equal longer-lasting fabrics that feel soft and are easy to maintain.
If minimalism is a philosophy that can be branded, then our goal is to make our image simple. We created our brand because we wanted a comfortable solution to not having to wear anything else. This is sincere minimalism, cutting down the decisions in our daily life by solving the problem of finding what to wear.