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The Beatles, Elvis and Leonardo da Vinci

Wayne Hastings is a friend of mine, the Bible publisher at Thomas Nelson and a HUGE fan of The Beatles. He and I were emailing some comments back-and-forth recently about a new book on the life of George Harrison. (For those of you "too young" to remember The Beatles, they were the band Paul McCartney was in before WINGS).

Wayne commented on how amazing it was that, despite not having actually released an album in almost 40 years, The Beatles remain an extremely popular brand. As he put it, "Imagine NIKE not releasing a new shoe for 40 years. No one would remember who they were."

That dialog got me to pondering why certain things (brands included) have such a strong hold on us. I think there's more than one reason, not the least of which was the subject of a Market Intelligence issue I wrote back in December of 2002. It's relevance is just as fresh today, as it was then:

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The Beatles, Elvis and Leonardo da Vinci

My wife and I were doing some pre-holiday cleaning this week and came across a long-lost CD of The Beatles Number One Hits.

I couldn’t wait to slip it into the slot of my car stereo and sing along.

"She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah."

It’s been almost 40 years since Capitol Records asked us to "Meet The Beatles" but the songs still resonate with anyone who hears them. My 16-year-old listens to all sorts of "music" but she can sing all the words to "I Wanna Hold Your Hand."

On September 24 of this year (2002), RCA Records released a compilation of Elvis Presley’s No. 1 hits and it became the first Elvis album EVER to debut at Number One in the United States. Quoting the Reuters News Agency – "the King of Rock 'n Rock still rules even 25 years after his death."

The secret of staying power? Four chords, straightforward lyrics and a basic beat.

"I’ll give it a 95, Mr. Clark. It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it."

Ah, the power of simplicity.

So, what does this mean for your organization?

Your customers live in a complex world. The degree to which you provide simple solutions to their needs could be the competitive edge that puts you at the top of their "hit" list. The "better mouse trap" must be easier to understand and operate than the one it’s replacing. If you need to explain it, again and again, you’re wasting their time (and losing their business).

Every organization needs someone who functions as the Vice President of Simplification. Their job should be to ask these questions:

  • Do our customers understand what we do for them – the first time?
  • Where do we waste our customer’s time by making things too complicated?
  • Is there a way to take business from our competitors by simplifying something we do?

Final note – Simple does NOT mean unintelligent or unwise. This month’s inspiration comes from Leonardo da Vinci, who wrote – "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

Go forth and simplify.

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