“The Diffusion of Innovation”, a book by Everett Rogers, published in 1962 describes classifications of groups of people and how ideas and innovations are spread in society.
Rogers was a leading academic and sociologist, and in his work he considered that there are 5 types of individuals, who behave quite differently when faced with change. His typology has become a basis for marketing theory and strategy for the last 50 years. According to Rogers the 5 categories are Innovators, Early adopters, Early majority, Late majority, and Laggards. What is interesting and relevant to CEO’s and the VP of marketing in any organizations is why these groups of individuals are different, and how the differences impact the company’s marketing and sales strategies.
- Group 1, the Innovators, accounts for about 2.5% of the population. These are the Apple followers, prepared to take risks, they are younger and very social according to Rogers, and they come from wealthier backgrounds. They play a critical role in the early phase of establishing a new product or idea, because if it satisfies this group, they become trail blazers for the product. If it fails they drop it, absorb the loss (financially) and look for the next breakthrough innovation. Their advertising is edgy and high tech, and captures risk taking as an art form.
- Group 2, are the Early Adopters, who account for 13.5%. They behave with slightly more discretion to Innovators, but demographically are similar, and because of their more considered purchase decision, are regarded as having a more reliable opinion on the new product or service. Make them loyal to your brand, and you have the basis for a growing business.
- Group 3, is called the Early Majority, and they are much more conservative. They take time to make a decision, they rely on others’ opinions, especially Early Adopters, and they are less well off, and are not generally seen as leaders in society. They account for 34% of the population. Because they are careful buyers, in your marketing and advertising strategy, use a recognized, trusted authority figure to give a testimonial.
- Group 4, the Late Majority accounts for 34% as well, which means that Early and Late majority represent the greatest opportunity for significant market penetration in the life of the business/brand. This group of individuals is cautious, (they have less disposable income and wealth) and is skeptical about change until others have accepted the product or service. They are followers. A communication strategy for groups 3 and 4 would have relevance for these individuals.
- Group 5, (16%) is represented by Laggards (the horse that lost you your money!). They are older, more set in their ways, C,D income, relate most to family or close friends, and are therefore not the opinion leaders. Their caution almost makes them irrelevant to innovations, except if the new product or service specifically addressed a salient need in this group (a pill that stops aging).
This is not a simplistic theory, and Rogers explained that people can behave differently for different innovations, based on different demographic or psychological motivations, as the example above shows. A new mother may be an early adopter of a breakthrough childcare safety product, but a laggard adopter of a new vitamin that claims to make children more intelligent.
What does this imply? At Plutus Consulting Group we have consistently urged our clients to get to know the target customer inside and out, to truly understand their motivations, needs and wants. The greater the accuracy of the insights, the more specific and salient the marketing and sales strategy. This in turn will result in a greater likelihood of new product or service success, and of course a positive ROI.