Monday, September 10, 2007
Are you an early adopter?
I knew a lot of angry people when Apple decided to drop the price of the 8GB iPhone by $200 last Wednesday. Wouldn't you have been angry if you had paid $600 or a full 1/3 more than everybody else just for the privilege of owning an iPhone 3 months earlier?
This has got some people talking about a condition called the early adopter syndrome. "It's a lack of impulse control in the presence of new technologies," according to Tom Creeds of St. John's University.
So, who is an early adopter? I knew I had heard the term before. Were early adopters really just suckers who bought the latest gadgets at premium prices?
The term stems back to diffusion theory. It's a domino effect theory based on psychology and it beats in the heart of today’s marketing campaigns. Everett Rogers's "Diffusion of Innovations," published in 1995, is the textbook for diffusion theory. The idea is that early adopters set trends. Imagine a hill or a bell curve graph. Early adopters would be on the left, the big bulge in the middle is the majority in the middle or the mainstream and the laggards are all the way on the right.
Early adopters are the target audience for all marketers. They don't shy away from newness and uncertainty and they are happy to incorporate cutting edge innovations. They are the people who will bring a cool new product to the mainstream. They make up just 13.5% of the population. Here's the breakdown:
(1) Innovators - 2.5%
(2) Early adopters - 13.5%
(3) Early majority - 34%
(4) Late majority - 34%
(5) Laggards - 16%
Basically, early adopters shape opinions and influence their friends. We all know somebody who is always on the early edge of trends. The person who knows about a great band months before anybody else. The person who waited on line for the Nintendo Wii long before everyone else had one. Dr. Donald Berwick calls them "self-conscious experimenters," in a 2003 Journal of the American Medical Association article.
Many tech writers refer to what they call early adopter syndrome, or confess to being a technoholic, but all joking aside, you can get burned. Such as in the case with the iPhones. By the way, Apple is offering credits to appease iPhone's early adopters.
Buying new technology often means it's unproven and needs testing, but early adopters often forego the risk for the possible benefits.
Are you an early adopter? Do you know any early adopters? Do you think this theory of trend-setting makes sense?
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