Check out The 16% Rule presentation slides here
Last year as part of my Masters degree, I wrote a paper on why iPhone adoption will be faster in Australia than the US
Key to this claim was Diffusion of Innovation theory, to which I introduced a new concept titled The Newton Ball Diffusion Acceleration Effect
In the year since developing this concept, I have been responsible for several new product launches, that have all been successful way beyond expectations due to another theory that I have developed on how to accelerate diffusion of innovation.
I am now ready to share this secret with you.
Accelerating Diffusion of Innovation: Maloney’s 16% Rule
Firstly, thanks to the Diffusion of Innovation Adoption Curve developed by Everett Rogers we know the percentages of any population that make up each adopter category.
The theory is that each category of adopters acts as an influencer and reference group for the next.
But there is a problem with this theory, and it lies between the Early Adopters and the Early Majority.
These groups don’t reference each other because their Psychographics are very different.
According to Rogers, Early Adopters are “Visionaries” and the Early Majority are “Pragmatists”
It is like putting a marketer and a lawyer in the same room. They are unlikely to get along, or listen to each other.
In Groundswell, Forrester Research identify 6 Social Technographics and again there is an interesting intersection at around the 15% mark, where “Creators” are faced with “Critics”.
Obviously these Technographic groups don’t exactly get along, but they still need each other to exist and grow.
Geoffrey Moore defined this gap between Early Adopters and the Early Majority as “The Chasm”, in his insightful book called Crossing the Chasm
Malcolm Gladwell defined the other side of this chasm as “The Tipping Point” or the point where the mainstream market starts to adopt the idea and the sales go through the roof.
So how do you cross the chasm to get to the tipping point?
How we answer this question requires a dig into persuasion theory.
In the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini introduces 6 principles of persuasion; reciprocity, scarcity, liking, authority, social proof, and commitment/consistency.
There are two in particular that are extremely relevant for our problem; scarcity and social proof.
Innovators and Early Adopters are turned on more by scarcity. Basically they want what others can’t have or don’t know about.
The Early Majority (and Late Majority/Laggards) are more turned on by social proof. They want what many others have and are talking about.
But Early Adopters have a vested interest in the Early Majority not adopting the innovation because it takes away from their scarcity needs.
So it is up to us marketers to bridge this gap.
The Secret: Maloney’s 16% Rule
There are two ways marketers can bridge the gap, firstly by altering their messaging/creative, then by altering their media mix.
At launch of an innovation (be it a new product, service or idea), messaging should be playing to Innovators and Early Adopters’ desire for scarcity.
So messages such as “Be one of the first…” work well for these groups.
But at the point where 16% of the target population have taken up the innovation, the messaging needs to change to one that focuses on social proof.
For example “Join the 100,000 customers who have already bought this product”
Too many products are launched with a big bang TV commercial that is designed to get mass awareness (or to please the CEO).
In general, awareness can be achieve this way, but the concept is flawed from actually generating innovation adoption effectively.
Just like the messaging and innovation itself, information about the new product, service or idea should be scarce at first, in order to excite Innovators and Early Adopters.
These groups love it when they are the first to hear about something, so channels such as direct marketing, PR or targeted print advertising in trade media, Twitter, and Viral Marketing all work well.
Mass media is counter intuitive at this point.
Why would these groups want to talk about something you have already told everyone about?
It actually slows down Diffusion of Information rather than accelerating it.
But at the point of 16% adoption, in order to cross the chasm you need to switch to mass media in order to provide social proof to the Early Majority that this is a serious innovation, and not just something for Innovators and Early Adopters.
Or in other words use a one-two punch: lead with PR, follow through with advertising.
Check out The 16% Rule presentation slides
I recently presented The 16% Rule at ADMA Forum 2011 and The Customer Show, Sydney. You can check out the presentation slides here
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