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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.

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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 Innovation 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[k1] in marketing efforts for new gadgets and toys could prove to be serious negligence.

Goldenberg believes that laggards[k2] 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.  Gven 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.


[k1]Not sure if everyone will automatically know who/what a “laggard” is. I know the definition of the word but it potentially reads like jargon here. I think it’s worth defining who they are to give your post clarity.

[k2]Maybe call them “non-adopters”?

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I’ve watched my share of TED Talks, and I’m always amazed by the consistent quality of the presentations. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a dud. This may explain why…The TED Commandments.

sowt-image-temple-uThe movement of people around social causes, buying behavior and general trends has always been “of the moment” in both academic and popular press. From the seminal work forty years ago of Everett Rogers and Frank Bass, up to today’s Malcolm Gladwell, Richard Florida, James Surowiecki and the UK’s Mark Earls, we always want to understanding the ‘why’s’ and ‘how’s’ of group activity.

Agreeing in principal with each of their respective points of view, the one element that I see in common and critical to it all making sense is the work of Mark Granovetter, “The Strength of Weak Ties.” For me it’s the granddaddy of all theories regarding social networks. It is the “ties that bind”; the theoretical glue.

According to Granovetter, “our acquaintances (weak ties) are less likely to be socially involved with one another than are our close friends (strong ties).” Makes sense, no big deal, right? But the beauty of the theory is where Granovetter goes with the relationship within these “low and high density” social networks.

The theory goes that I will have a collection of close friends, most of whom are in touch with one another, a densely knit clump of social structure. Moreover, I will have a collection of acquaintances, few of whom know one another. Each of these acquaintances, however, is likely to have close friends in his own right and therefore to be enmeshed in a closely knit clump of social structure, but one different from mine. The weak tie between me and my acquaintance, therefore, becomes not merely a trivial acquaintance tie but rather a crucial bridge between the two densely knit clumps of close friends.

To the extent this assertion is correct, these clumps would not, in fact, be connected to one another at all were it not for the existence of weak ties.

This theory plays into the diffusion of information and overall trend innovation in that, “individuals with few weak ties will be deprived of information from distant parts of the social system and will be confined to the provincial news and views of their close friends. This deprivation will not only insulate them from the latest ideas and fashions but may put them in a disadvantaged position in education, politics, healthcare, and general advancement of quality of life.” Heavy stuff!

So be kind to all, and even more so to those you only give a friendly nod to on the train or in the supermarket, for they are potentially more an indicator of your future well-being than you realize.

It appears that those I know, associate with and generally consider my “friends and colleagues” have been, to some degree, chosen for me without my consent, and vice versa.

 

According to work conducted at Harvard Medical School and the University of California San Diego, the how to of making friends and building social networks are coded within genes. According to Nicholas Christaskis, a medical sociologist with Harvard, “humans, like ants, assemble themselves into a ‘super organism’ with rules governing the assembly, rules that we carry with us deep in our genes.” The thought is that one’s tendency to transitivity or centrality is “significantly heritable.”

 

Perhaps this why I was a hall wanderer and not on the high school yearbook committee. Throughout my life my genetic background has been a prime determinant of how many friends I (will) have as well as how many of my friends are friends amongst themselves.

 

diffusionofinnovationSuch a theory lends credibility, perhaps, to the explosion of Facebook, LinkedIn, and the overall diffusion of innovation, trends, products, and like-minded long-term behavioral shifts in societal thought. According to James Fowler, a University of California political scientist, “the next step is to look for specific genes, to see if social networks can explain associations with behaviors with obesity, smoking, and depression.”

 

Perhaps they can predict with a pin prick the propensity of me and my friends to hop on board and buy a new Chevy.