Innovation is a constant in technology as well as business. But not all innovations are created equal. Most innovations can be divided into two broad categories: an evolutionary change (e.g., from the phonograph record to the cassette tape) or a discontinuous innovation (e.g., from the cassette tape to the iPod). Discontinuous innovations can be defined as “new products or services that require the end-user and the marketplace to dramatically change past behavior, with the promise of gaining equally dramatic new benefits” (Hutt & Speh, 2007).

Innovation is good, but from a marketing standpoint, it represents a unique challenge.In 1995, Geoffrey A. Moore, a leading consultant at Hewlett-Packard and principle of The Chasm Group Marketing Consultants, developed a framework to describe the adoption of new technology and innovation into the marketplace. The technology adoption life cycle has become a popular tool used by business strategists at high-technology firms.

The Technology Adoption Life Cycle

The original technology adoption life cycle model was developed in 1957 by Joe M. Bohlen, George M. Beal and Everett M. Rogers at Iowa State College. They built their model on earlier research conducted there by Neal C. Gross and Bryce Ryan, whose original purpose was to track the purchase patterns of hybrid seed corn by farmers (“Technology Adoption Life Cycle,” 2009).

Many business plans are based on this traditional model, a smooth bell curve of high-tech customers, progressing from Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority and finally Laggards. Known as Rogers’ Bell Curve, this model implies that the way to develop a market is to work the curve from left to right, progressively winning each group of users, using each “captured” group as a reference for the next.

Geoffrey A. Moore adapted this model to high-tech marketing and demonstrated that there are cracks in the curve between each phase of the cycle representing a disconnect between any two groups. He demonstrated that each group would have difficulty accepting the new product if it was marketed the same way as it was to the previous group. The largest crack, which he referred to as the chasm, is between the Early Adopters and the Early Majority. Many high-tech innovations fail trying to make it across this chasm.

Marketing Strategies for Technology Adoption Life Cycle

Marketers who are aware of this framework can use it to their advantage. One strategy that they can use to sell innovations is to make sure that the Innovators get to use them as soon as possible. While they typically do not have the resources to purchase the product themselves, their opinions about the product are influential to other members of the organization. The goal of the marketer is to ensure that the product is accepted by the majority of users. The challenges that marketers face are meeting the needs of the innovators, getting over “the chasm” and achieving adoption by the mass market.

Crossing the Chasm

Moore advocates that a company focus on a single specific market or a “beachhead” and use it as a springboard to adjacent extended markets. In his book, Crossing the Chasm, Moore relates the marketing of the technology adoption life cycle to that of a planned battle. First, target the point of attack by identifying the primary target customers, the compelling reasons to buy and the competition, and the secondary market factors such as partners, distribution, pricing and positioning. Next, assemble an invasion force. Create the whole product by thinking through the customer’s problems and defining solutions. Once you have done this entirely, you can define the battle. Marketers can do this by creating competition, defining positioning, and developing a messaging strategy and marketing communications. Finally, a marketer can launch the invasion which includes distribution and pricing of the product (Moore, 1999).

The Technology Adoption Life Cycle Today

With the advent of the Internet and high-speed communication, the time frame of the technology adoption life cycle has become much faster. It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users. It took television 13 years to reach 50 million users; the Internet four years; the iPod three years; Facebook added more than 100 million users in nine months; and Twitter added 50 million new users in just over three months (United Nations Cyberschoolbus, 2009). The application of the technology adoption life cycle can be used to help illustrate how new ideas and technologies spread so quickly in today’s digital culture.

Today with open source development, companies can provide outside developers, technology enthusiasts and innovators with the opportunity to test new products well before they reach the market (Tsai, 2009). With instant communication tools and marketing channels such as social networking, marketers can cross the chasm much easier and find the profit opportunity much sooner before hitting the mass market. Although marketers can reach the Early Majority much faster, it will still take some time to reach the Late Majority and the Laggards. If marketers are not careful, this increased speed can produce increased failures, missed opportunities and negative brand awareness and sentiment — especially when applying these new technologies to B2B marketing.

The Technology Adoption Life Cycle can be applied to many marketing initiatives and has proven to be a successful strategy when managing and marketing innovative products, services and ideas.

References

Hutt, Michael D., & Speh, Thomas W. (2007) Business Marketing
Management: b2b. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

Moore, Geoffrey A. (1999) Crossing the Chasm, Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to
Mainstream Customer, HarperCollins Publishing Inc., New York.
Retrieved image: “The Chasm” graphic

Technology Adoption Life Cycle. (2009, September 18) In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Retrieved October 3, 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology_adoption_lifecycle

Tsai, Eric (2009, September 10). When to Adopt Social Media for Your Business.
Retrieved October 3, 2009 from http://designdamage.com/index.php/200909/when-
to-adopt-social-media-for-your-business/
Retrieved image: Roger’s Bell curve graphic

United Nations Cyberschoolbus. Information and Communications Technology.

 

http://www0.un.org/cyberschoolbus/briefing/technology/tech.pdf. Retrieved on 2009-08-08.