To be honest, I feel like “new” doesn’t always mean “improved.” In this world of growing technology and expanding markets, it can be easy to forget that sometimes innovation is just there for innovation’s sake. Consequently, the reason something hasn’t been invented yet is because nobody really asked for it.
The idea of change seems innocent enough and, in moderation, even drives our society. However, enough of it—and enough backlash—can damage customer loyalty for a lifetime. Among the most-studied examples of this is New Coke, which failed so hard that it only spent 79 days on shelves. During those 79 days, Coca-Cola received over 400,000 angry phone calls over a product that’d been misunderstood in the first place—one that had received good scores in taste tests mainly because people saw it as a supplement, rather than a replacement, to Classic Coke. It brought all the anger of the Prohibition era to the 1980s, with people selling old Coke at exorbitant prices and, as CBS News reports, forming outright protest groups like the “Old Cola Drinkers of America.”
As extreme as this example is, it goes to show that this habit of creating products by removing what people love about them to begin with is far from new, and it’s far from over. Just last week, Apple revealed plans for the iPhone 7 and its corresponding product, the AirPod. AirPods, completely wireless headphones, are specifically designed to work with the iPhone 7, eliminating the need for cumbersome cords, as well as headphone jacks. For people who lose small objects easily and don’t want to fork over $159 for another added feature or who just want to keep using the headphones that worked for their father in the 80’s and work for them now, this has created some understandable tension. But even as Apple continues to push people toward this new innovation, people somehow don’t want to buy headphones they have to charge like everything else. Next up on the line for debate will inevitably be complaining about the glitches that result from rushing a product out every six months or so.
Food can be an equally head-scratching case. While people generally tend to like sweet desserts without being told their complete histories, it’s often one of the places where the novelty of newness comes in the most. Whenever a particular flavor becomes at least a little popular—and people start desiring salted caramel over completely passé regular caramel, all the packaged food companies leap right onto it. However, when new flavor trends don’t come out as quickly as the companies would like, the companies are left to grab at straws and guess, leading to them borrowing from nobody’s favorite candy and nobody’s favorite pie (Swedish Fish and Blueberry Pie Oreos, respectively). In fact, milk’s favorite cookie has an almost notorious habit of doing this, with Internet taste tests almost always preferring simple flavors, like a nice lemon crème with Golden Oreos, as opposed to the redundancy that is Cookies and Cream Oreos.
So, what can we conclude from all these findings? Maybe that old phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is true. Innovation can be nice in its place, but it’s something that should come out of years of asking the people if it’s what they really want. Lucky guesses at what they’ll want can happen once in a blue moon, but for everyone else, it’s back to the drawing board. The world isn’t quite ready for cherry tea Oreos yet.