Ahead of the Curve or Pulling Up the Rear?


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As with many things in business, there are stages of adoption that many companies face in diversifying their marketing mix. The process is not only relevant from a strictly technological perspective, but also in your choice of message delivery medium, channels, and so on. The adoption process has been studied and scrutinized to identify 5 major groups.

Rogers’ bell curve was introduced in 1962 to illustrate the concept and visualize the distribution among the groups. It is still widely regarded today to represent adoption among individuals as well as businesses for innovations in any number of subject areas.

Rogers Adoption Curve

Without getting into mundane details about each group, Wikipedia defines the groups as:

Innovators are the first individuals to adopt an innovation. Innovators are willing to take risks, youngest in age, have the highest social class, have great financial lucidity, very social and have closest contact to scientific sources and interaction with other innovators.

Early Adopters
This is second fastest category of individuals who adopt an innovation. These individuals have the highest degree of opinion leadership among the other adopter categories. Early adopters are typically younger in age, have a higher social status, have more financial lucidity, advanced education, and are more socially forward than late adopters (Rogers 1962, p. 185).

Early Majority
Individuals in this category adopt an innovation after a varying degree of time. This time of adoption is significantly longer than the innovators and early adopters. Early Majority tend to be slower in the adoption process, have above average social status, contact with early adopters, and show some opinion leadership.

Late Majority
Individuals in this category will adopt an innovation after the average member of the society. These individuals approach an innovation with a high degree of skepticism and after the majority of society has adopted the innovation.

Individuals in this category are the last to adopt an innovation. Unlike some of the previous categories, individuals in this category show little to no opinion leadership. These individuals typically have an aversion to change-agents and tend to be advanced in age.

When it comes to marketing technology, we’ve seen customers that span each and every group defined above, all with seemingly valid reasons for ending up in one group over another. There’s a lot to be said for having the gusto to put yourself into the Innovators group, and in the right situation if executed properly, the payoff can be well worth the risk. However, for the more cautious decision makers out there, there can be a great benefit in sitting back for a moment to learn from the success, and mistakes, of the innovators.

Jumping on the next bandwagon just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t always work out to the best business strategy. But, if approached with the proper strategy and execution plan in place, the breadth of interactive media available to us today makes being a marketer in 2010 a very exciting position to be in. The proliferation of socially-connected applications is the proverbial “dangling carrot” for anyone playing in the arena today. We are far more connected and ready to reap the benefits of building brand awareness through social interaction and not just viral, but qualified, meaningful outlets.

So, my question is this: where do you find your business in the grand scheme of Roger’s adoption curve? Are you driving change and pushing the envelope, taking chances with high hopes of a big reward? Or, are you satisfied letting a group of others work out the kinks first and then joining the game with validated tactics? Looking forward to hearing where folks fall on the subject…


  1. Geoffrey Moore uses a very a similar (almost identical) curve that is highlighted in his classic book on entrepreneurial marketing “Crossing the Chasm”. Moore’s thesis is that the movement from Early Adopters to Early Majority (what he calls going from the Visionaries to the Pragmatics) is the biggest challenge for any start-up venture. He uses the analogy of “D-Day” (and the effort required / losses to be sustained) to illustrate how hard it is to gain acceptance (and revenue dollars) in the mainstream market. It’s a fascinating read, and if you haven’t had the opportunity to read it, I strongly suggest you should. Good article.

    Patrick Lefler
    The Spruance Group
    Site: http://www.spruancegroup.com
    Blog: http://www.spruancegroup.com/blog
    Newsletter: http://www.spruancequarterly.com


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