Consistency vs. Innovation

How does Coca-cola manage to serve the same beverage for so many decades? How little has the McDonald’s menu changed across the years?

It’s surprising how several top food brands continue to enjoy roaring popularity merely based on the simple promise of consistency. A McDonald’s looks look and feels the same everywhere in the world. With Coca-cola, the promise goes even further. Regardless of which country you buy a coke bottle, you are guaranteed the same taste.

These brands get away with serving unhealthy food manufactured on assembly lines by keeping a simple promise every single time. Consistency is important enough for us to make meals of junk food and celebrate fizzy and sugared water. The times they tried to do something radically different (as with New Coke or the McLean Deluxe), their customers punished them. Every successful brand strives to be consistent – with fonts, colours, uniforms, decor and processes.

A propensity towards the consistent is hard-wired within every living creature – most animals stick to familiar surroundings and eat familiar food. A creature that tries eating every exotic looking fruit isn’t likely to survive very long in the wild. The psychologist Daniel Kahneman talks about how familiarity breeds liking. Not contempt. 

Innovation happens in moonshots – attempts that are most likely to fail, but hold a small promise of shifting the paradigm. But all innovators fight against our ingrained tendency to keep things familiar. To innovate is to be inconsistent. Little wonder that most brands, which have worked so hard to stay consistent, struggle to innovate.

2 thoughts on “Consistency vs. Innovation

  1. One argument for the existence of McDonald’s is satisficing – We don’t want a bad burger. We may or may not get a great burger, but atleast we won’t get a bad one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed. Loss aversion seems even more intense when it comes to food. I might take a bet for a gain of €200 with the risk of losing €100. But I’ll need at least 5 good burgers to avoid 1 bad burger, and maybe a 100 good ones if 1 makes me sick. This would’ve offered an unquestionable survival advantage.


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