Simplicity sells…and lasts

Pop-tarts In a time when innovation has diluted of its meaning, nowadays anybody can claim to be innovative if all they do is put out meaningless increments, Pot-Tarts can teach some lessons about innovation. 

Do you like Pop-Tarts? I love them! They are so good it brings a smile to my face just thinking about them.

A few weeks ago The Atlantic posted an article about the history of Pop-Tarts, and how it hasn’t changed much. Though the company that makes Pop-Tarts has claimed that they have been innovating, since they were first introduced 50 years ago.

What makes Pot-Tarts such a likeable product that has stood the test of time?

Again, though the company that makes Pot-Tarts has made different variations of the same product (flavors, sizes, packaging, etc.) to refresh the brand and keep people excited; they haven’t innovated in any way or form that blows our minds away.

But, I think that like gummy bears and Oreo’s, you don’t have to do too much to enjoy them; plus they are fairly healthy snacks. You can enjoy Pop-Tarts as it comes out of the box or you can put it into the toaster and accompanied by a glass of milk. It’s as simple as that!

That’s their power: simplicity.

What makes it even more incredible is that Pop-Tarts are not without competition from other snacks, such as gummy bears, Oreo’s, chocolate chip cookies, and many others; it is still a crowd favorite. I think the Pop-Tart, like gummy bears and Oreo’s, is a fascinating innovation because it doesn’t have to be constantly improved to validate it’s value. Whether that is because it’s food or not I don’t know, but you can’t argue with its success.

As innovators, in an effort to make a great product we spend a lot of time tweaking our ideas sometime to no avail. Most of us tend to make our ideas too complex because we think that complex means big; which in many heads equals better. Then there’s the illusion that because it is new that we must be innovating; unfortunately new doesn’t equal innovation.

What does equal innovation?

I like, and use, Google’s criteria for innovation: for something to be innovative it must be new, surprising and radically useful.

Criteria for something to be innovative

It is the last point which is important, radically useful. Pop-Tarts are radically useful because they are quite tasty, but simple to enjoy; they bring a smile to our face.

History is littered with many wannabe innovations that failed because they tried too hard to be innovative, too big and complex. But innovations that matter share the same outcome  as Pot-Tarts: make our lives simpler and bring a smile to our face.

Bottom line: Understanding the distinction between simplistic vs. simple is an important distinction because whether it’s food, fashion, technology, real estate, finance, simplicity sells in any type of industry.