The New Digital Minimalism

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How much of what are you putting online?

I was interested in a mobile app. I went to their website. There was not a lot of information. It featured two actions:

  1. Download the app.
  2. Watch a short video demo.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

There were no other tabs on the website. There were no testimonials, white papers, long-winded corporate drivel, jargon-filled product description and more. This brand was not treating their digital presence as a receptacle for all of their marketing collateral. They were laser focused on one, simple action: download the app. Why? Because we have come to this miraculous point in our business world where technology is removing the technology from technology (read that five times fast). The easier all of this stuff (from the hardware to the apps) is to use, the easier it will be to convince consumers to use them, share them and talk about them. The app is self-explanatory. Once you download it and open it up, all will be revealed.

Simple is as simple does.

It’s somewhat counterintuitive to think like this, but as complex as marketing has become, it is the simplicity of the brand message and product that wins. The latest and greatest stuff doesn’t do everything. In fact, it’s the opposite. The latest and greatest stuff does one simple thing. And, it does it well. We are in the new era of digital minimalism. It is no longer a world where you need to have multiple pages for your website that push linking (internal and external) coupled with keyword stuffed text to game the search engines. The brands that are triumphant in the online world, are scaling back and making the experience as minimalistic as possible.

This will freak out the Chief Marketing Officer.

Marketers are going to have to adjust their attitudes and perceptions as to what marketing can be in this world of the new digital minimalism. Instead of stacking the homepage with the corporate stock price, news feed, product updates and more, the attitude needs to be adjusted. Consumers are moving through content at a voracious pace and yet we (the marketers) still pretend that everything we’re publishing is some kind of destination in their consumer experience. It’s to adapt to the new reality. This is less about short-attention spans and a consumer’s ability to click away in a millisecond, and much more about creating a clear value chain that is steeped in minimalism.

One, simple thing.

If you can get a consumer hooked on one, simple thing, odds are that you can rinse and repeat this process. Many will (sadly) read that last line to mean that they can abuse the marketing flow. Those people will be direly wrong. Think minimalism. Think bare. Think simple. We often toss these words out into the marketing zeitgeist without really appreciating the amazing opportunity that we have – as a marketing industry – to truly add value to the consumer’s life. No brand will ever be able to create the next Twitter without embracing the new digital minimalism.

Welcome to the new digital minimalism.


  1. So true, I find when going to a website to find a product or service or just interested in what they are talking about the more text and info and pages to sift through I end up just closing and going to the next one that is much more simplistic.
    One other thing that bothers me is when looking to buy something of a website if there is all the marketing and branding info about how awesome it is but no price and want you to fill out a form or go through too many steps I just go somewhere else to find a similiar product. Horrible marketing move on there part.
    The more simple the better chance of gaining a customer.

  2. This makes perfect sense. Even as newspapers are seeing a need for single message/high impact web ads (a reflection of the Full-Page print ad) for clients to gain web users attention, marketing emails are reducing content to focus on the key marketing message, mobile sites are cleaner/faster, and so web forms should follow suit. As we know, (one of) the most successful search engine sites today is still a logo and a search field.

  3. It’s been verified: we’re all just a bunch of monkeys (“Look, the banana is right here! NO… right HERE!”).
    Scratch and sniff. Click and download. Same idea?
    Jokes aside, I think you’ve touched on something that brands tend to forget about in the marketing equation — their utility and extensibility.
    Sure, “utility” has been thrown around irresponsibly to imply that you must have some sort of app to stay relevant, but it really just means that you can provide a simple solution to a complex problem, or a tether to a grand opportunity. That, of course, doesn’t need marketing or messaging fluff (show me your value!). Extensibility simply means that you can plug this widget/app/platform thingy into others, and scale it with other businesses, like startups.
    A great example? Nike’s suite of platforms, Fuelband et al (utility), and its new accelerator program to attract entrepreneurs who can scale those platforms through new businesses (extensibility).
    Agencies like Deutsch (“Inventionist”) and KBS+P are also getting into the act (I recall you mentioning that you guys were doing something like this as well), and I think you’ll see more jump into the ring to build off of this idea of minimalism.
    Good stuff. So where’s my banana, and an advance copy of CTRL+ALT+DEL?

  4. Excellent advice for any company developing a web site. All the useless drivel that people put on their sites is tedious. Focus on the product/service you offer and the action you want someone to take. Thanks!

  5. I think this is also the influence of lean and agile thinking toward product development. I think with the amount of digital noise that is out there – it makes sense. Although – I think there is some value to having personable information (bios, some context).

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