Bedazzled Juicy Couture tracksuits evoke a physical reaction from me. I apologize for saying that to those of you who still wear them. I can’t help it. The cringe is automatic.
Juice Couture tracksuits were all the rage in the early noughties. I didn’t even like them then, but I couldn’t deny their popularity and status symbolism. Those velour monstrosities were the perfect outfit to make the massive diamond studs you wanted to show off on the school run look a little more casual. Oh, just another day dropping little Timmy off while wearing someone’s annual salary on my ear lobes.
Once upon a time, Juicy Couture was cool. If you still think it is, you are part of a group that marketers call laggards. Does it sound like I just insulted you? I didn’t. I merely defined how you choose to adopt innovation. And the truth is, you don’t adopt innovation. You wait until a product has so much mass appeal that it couldn’t possibly be risky for you to purchase. Thousands and maybe millions of people have already tried the product by the time you decide it’s safe to spend your hard earned money on it.
It’s ok to be a laggard. You have 16% of the population as company.
So let’s take a step back. If 16% of the population are laggards, where does the rest of the population lie on the Adoption Bell Curve? And what is the Adoption Bell Curve anyway?
The Adoption Bell Curve is a concept that defines the way in which innovation, namely technology, is accepted by society. This doesn’t mean that only companies that create innovative products need to know about it, as the bell curve identifies where the different segments of society sit and how to target each. Not all people crave innovation, and some actually fear it.
Innovators (2.5% of the population): This group of people generally enjoys high disposable income and craves spending that income on the new and exciting. They’re not afraid to take a chance on a product that could be a complete failure. Innovators can be fixated on one product category like technology, electronics, makeup, and fashion and are highly involved with their industry of interest.
Early Adopters (13.5% of the population): This segment of the population is composed of trendsetters and is the most influential group among the adopter categories. Early adopters thrive on their social status, as they know their friends and family look to them for advice and guidance. In today’s marketing landscape, prominent bloggers usually fall into this category and are given preferential treatment by brands not only because of their audience size, but also the power of their opinion. While early adopters are risk takers, they are more vigilant with their choices than innovators.
Early Majority (34% of the population): This group requires more proof of success before purchasing new products. While they are not opinion leaders like the early adopters, they do tend to inter-mingle or have contact with them in some way (like an avid celebrity fan on Instagram). The early majority members are generally of above average social status.
Late Majority (34% of the population): Almost no opinion leadership is found among the late majority, who adopt innovative products after the average Joe. These people shy away from the new and cutting edge and will only adopt a product once it has firmly established itself as mainstream.
Laggards (16% of the population): This group is composed of extremely conservative consumers who adopt innovation late in the product’s life cycle. The penchant for tradition is often driven by lower financial liquidity or being older in age.
Why is this crucial to know as a business owner? Each segment of the curve is marketed to differently, and trying to access one segment with the tools that work for the other will simply leave you burning through your budget without seeing results.
If you are planning to launch a product that you hope will truly disrupt your industry, you must target the innovators and the early adopters. Elite access is key for these two groups, so exclusive events, pre-launch samples, and even conferring with them on how to create the best products are all tactics that work for them. A television commercial on MBC will not.
While the early majority is influenced by the habits of the early adopters, they, along with the late majority, can be reached and influenced with traditional advertising techniques. But if you are using traditional ads to launch a ground breaking product, you will not pique the interest of the people who are actually comfortable enough to try it.
Laggards are generally not intentionally marketed to.
When identifying the target audience for your product/service, it is important to assess where they sit on the Adoption Bell Curve. The center of the curve does have a higher percentage of the population, so many companies decide to launch a better version of what their competition offers in order to skip the difficult task of carving out a new path with innovators and early adopters. While this seems like a safe idea, the advertising clutter targeted at the early and late majority is deafening, so your message and product may simply be overlooked.