Marketing Power of Predictability

By Chris Crouch

When I was a very young man many, many years ago, I remember being fascinated by the information on the bottom of the McDonald’s hamburgers signage. Of course, I didn’t know about the word signage back then. I just knew McDonald’s had really cool signs with golden arches and big red and white words. The words at the bottom of the sign intrigued me most.

Before I tell you about those words, let me freely admit that I often overthink things now and overthought things as a child. It’s what future writers frequently do. We observe the world around us and try to figure things out – even McDonald’s hamburger signs.

Anyhow, back then, the bottom of the McDonald’s sign would give you information on how many hamburgers were sold. For example, the sign might say, “Over 100 million sold.” Later they gave you the headcount on people served instead of hamburgers sold. That took a bit of the fun out of it for me because I liked mentally picturing big stacks of hamburgers more than mentally picturing crowds of people.

However, to me, the most interesting question about the message on the bottom of the sign was: How are they selling so many hamburgers when the hamburgers they sell are not very good? I mean come on – the burgers my dad cooked in the backyard were much better. Why couldn’t this huge company with so much money, power and so-called expertise in the world of hamburgers figure out how to cook a hamburger any better than my dad with limited resources in our backyard? I am paraphrasing of course; I would not have known the word expertise at that age either.

I couldn’t figure it out, so I eventually filed the issue in my memory banks and moved on to trying to figure out why “Crest was such an effective decay preventive dentifrice when used in a conscientiously applied program of oral hygiene and regular professional dental care” and if things actually went better with Coke. I apparently paid way too much attention to advertising in my wonder years.

And then I had children.

Parents deal with so much unpredictability that they begin to hunger for predictability – nay I say long for it! And McDonald's was highly predictable. They may not offer the best burger around, but they offer the most predictable burger around. And everything else about McDonalds was highly predictable. If you deserve a break today – all you have to do is get out and get away – to McDonald's. Raising kids is enough of a mystery. Parents are willing to pay for demystification, especially at dinnertime after a challenging day at work or when traveling with their children.

All this leads me to believe that it might be a good idea to rethink your business model and determine which elements of your business need to be unique and which need to be highly predictable. In a relatively chaotic environment, the marketing power of predictability might be worth carefully considering.

Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through