The authors of the study, Timothy B. Heath, Subimal Chatterjee, Suman Basuroy, Thorsten Hennig-Thurau and Bruno Kocher, identified several criteria that determines the success of sequential products such as the Fast and Furious
films. Ultimately, the study finds that there is an optimal number of
changes depending on where the iteration takes place in a sequence.
Further, the research shows that greater changes in later developments
result in an increase in positive reception.
A good example of these findings is seen in Fast Five—the fifth installment of the Fast and Furious. The film, which deviates from the franchise’s typical street-racing action for a heist-driven plot, grossed double the money that its immediate predecessor earned. The research attributes this success to the theory that consumers are
drawn to serialized products for two reasons: comfort and stimulation.
Comfort comes from the familiarity of the original product: A sequel comes with a guarantee that the viewer knows what to expect. Stimulation,
on the other hand, comes from the fact that a sequel is still something
new. As an innovation sequence progresses, the authors conclude that
consumers expect stimulation over comfort in the updates, upgrades and
sequels that come later in a series.
A chart showing how sequels perform with a variable number of changes.
Arguably, the reason for Fast Five's broader success may be that its story structure appeals to audiences
beyond automobile enthusiasts. Even so, the authors determine that this is not the exclusive reason since similar
patterns in other products such as the iPhone exist.
Currently in its tenth
model, the iPhone underwent its most significant design change between
the iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 with its slimmer shape and larger display. The
dramatic redesign stimulated consumers already familiar with the phone,
and subsequently broke sales records for the company.
According to author Timothy Heath, Apple
manages consumer expectations especially well with the use of its “s”
designator. “When moving from the iPhone 6 to 6s, the “s” lowers
consumer expectations relative to an increase in model number to the
iPhone 7, thereby making it easier for the phone’s innovations to
Aesthetic comparison of iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 models.
Marketers and managers of series installments
who work together to measure and maximize on consumer expectations will
take home a strong return on investment. Designing a system like
Apple’s “S” may also help to shape consumer expectations.
“…Interspersing minor/weaker innovations
among major/stronger innovations may help [those products perform
better]. Sellers can then introduce less expensive, more
comfort-oriented smaller innovations shortly after a major product
introduction to leverage and harvest the product’s relative novelty and
These smaller innovations also help temper consumer
expectations for, and thus improve evaluations of, later iterations.
Later iterations then require more stimulating innovations to revitalize
the brand and restore the harvested brand equity.”
B. Heath, Subimal Chatterjee, Suman Basuroy, Thorsten Hennig-Thurau,
and Bruno Kocher (2015), “Innovation Sequences over Iterated Offerings: A Relative Innovation, Comfort, and Stimulation Framework of Consumer Responses,” Journal of Marketing, 79 (6), 71-93.