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A recent article from Wired discusses the hidden sales potential in marketing innovative products to laggards. (A fragment of the consumer segmentation scheme borrowed from the Diffusion of Innovations theory, laggards refer to traditionalists who are generally wary of innovation and tend to wait till a product has become accepted and established before purchasing.) Writer Clive Thompson forwards a theory belonging to marketing professor Jacob Goldenberg, who posits that disregarding laggards in marketing efforts for new gadgets and toys could prove to be serious negligence.
Goldenberg believes that laggards tend to ‘leapfrog’ over generations of technology. In essence, let’s say that while laggards may have shied away from buying an iPod, they would be first in line to buy the iTouch. Given the group’s fairly broad base, it would be foolish not to target their buying power. Goldenberg’s study led him to conclude that if a mere 10% of the group leapfrogs to a particular new gadget, their purchases could drive sale profits up by 89% – which may prove the “difference between succeeding and not succeeding,” as he puts it.
The argument is logically viable, so let’s assume his findings are accurate. How does one toggle between messages speaking to savvy adopters and resistant laggards? Purchase motivations for the two groups, while not necessarily mutually exclusive, are disparate enough to warrant unique marketing strategies: adopters want a revolution; laggards, a tried-and-true evolution. Capturing both types of consumers will require a firm understanding of how aspects of your products can be framed in such a way as to meet one group’s needs, without alienating the other.