Dubai: Gulf consumers have an overwhelming closeness to social and media platforms — with WhatsApp topping as the must-have brand — while their global counterparts still show some empathy for brick-and-mortar.

A new survey by the authoritative branding consultancy Siegel+Gale shows WhatsApp a clear leader of the pack, and ahead of YouTube (a perennial favourite with the youth in the region), Google (its map and search engine among them), Samsung (despite the Note 7 fiasco) and Facebook.

And the prime reason why these brands were chosen over others is because of the ease of access they offered users.

“The message has never been simpler — 84 per cent of consumers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are willing to pay more for a simpler experience,” said Zouheir Zoueihed, Managing Director — Middle East. “Brands that want to standout and succeed must align to simplicity and make sure they deliver on it. It is a key in order to rise above competition and escape pressure on pricing.”

In WhatsApp’s case, which is owned by Facebook, it sure seems to be the case — 93 per cent are daily users of the app in the region, and is the “mobile app they would not be able to do without”.

“It leads the direct messaging revolution, crossing generational divides and exhibiting robust popularity among all age groups, which is testament to its simplicity and ease of use,” the brand consultancy reports.

For Amazon, constantly in market speculation of an impending big-bang entry into this market, there are good tidings to be had from the report. It’s up 52 spots — “The simplicity of a broad selection of products, customer reviews to help make a choice and a free shipping option if something catches your eye all remove friction from the customer journey,” states the report. “Whereas it is taken for granted in internet search, customer-centric simplicity is more differentiating in retail, helping it to dominate traditional competitors.

“As Amazon expands from e-commerce into hardware, software, services and beyond the brand risks confusing consumers — but it also has more opportunities to add value to our everyday lives. In 2016 Amazon’s innovation was not about new ways to buy stuff or consume content, or investment in the distant future, but in directly simplifying daily life.”

But one Gulf based brick-and-mortar brand Home Centre scored with respondents. “Over past two years Home Centre, the largest home retailer in the region, started to invest more than Dh1 billion as part of a five-year plan to strengthen presence across MENA and expand brand,” the report notes. “In September 2015, brand launched simple online platform with seamless checkout experience to make shopping more convenient and remodelled over 40 existing stores in region.”

While the Gulf consumers are clued in on digital and social, brick-and-mortar brands do have an edge elsewhere … at least for now.

Europe’s discount supermarket brands Aldi and Lidl were named tops in the global rankings and ahead of Google and Netflix, while another brick-and-mortar name — Ikea — comes in fifth. For Aldi, the keep it simple message has been working consistently well — this is the fourth year running it tops the Siegel+Gale listings.

Also in the global Top 10 rankings were Amazon, KFC, YouTube, McDonald’s and Subway.

In fact, the top 15 positions see a number of quick-service global F&B chains, implying that “quick service often means simple service”, which is how their patrons want to be served.

But for some brands, declines beckoned — Yahoo, in the midst of a corporate acquisition and name changes, dropped 37 places. And French insurer AXA was rated “as the most complex brand for the second year running”.

But Unilever-owned Dollar Shave Club landed in the top 10 “US Disrupter” rankings, as did, the value-for-money eCommerce provider.

“Disrupter brands possess a common characteristic — they place simplicity at the core of their customer experience,” said David Srere, co-CEO and chief strategy officer, Siegel+Gale. “The recent billion-dollar acquisitions of Dollar Shave Club and are further proof that simplicity drives brand loyalty and financial gain.”

The Siegel+Gale report also gives an indication of what brands are losing out from failing the “keep it simple” message — a whopping 70 billion pounds.

“Complexity is fast becoming the silent killer of profitable business growth,” said Liana Dinghile, Group Strategy Director, Siegel+Gale “Brands that don’t simplify are leaving almost £70 billion on the table … hence the increasing premium placed on simplicity today.”

Customers are avidly seeking experiences that make their lives simpler and the brands winning are the ones that focus their efforts on making this happen. Simplicity is definitely not easy but it does pay.”

The scope of the Siegel+Gale study


* Respondents rated 857 brands, selected as a representative set that respondents would be most likely to know and/or use in each country. They answered questions on how simple/complex they perceived their lives to be, how familiar they were with certain brands, if they recently used these brands and the simplicity/complexity of a brand’s communications and interactions in relation to its industry peers.

* They were then given a ‘Brand/Industry Simplicity Score’ calculated using inputs such as their contribution to making life simpler/more complex, the pain of typical interactions and communications in terms of how transparent/honest they were, useful, easy to understand etc.