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Innovations: To each their own reasons to adopt

Categories: Perspectives

Posted on 01-29-16 at 9:29 a.m.

It is no secret that we live in a time when innovations are appearing at an accelerated pace. This proliferation of new things on the market is causing marketing teams to increase their efforts and ingenuity to attract consumers to their new offers. However, all consumers do not adopt innovations at the same pace, nor for the same reasons.

To better understand some of the underlying motivations for the adoption of new products or services by consumers, we used our Panorama program (measuring changes in people’s values via an annual survey of more than 2,000 Canadian consumers) to recreate the segmentation developed in the 1960s by sociologist Everett Rogers in his Diffusion of Innovations model. This segmentation distributes the population into five groups of consumers according to how quickly they adopt innovations offered by the market.

Beyond the size of segments obtained, which is very similar to Rogers’ initial distribution, the value of the exercise lies in the identification of the state of mind of each of these types of consumers, that is, understanding the values and needs that are important to them and that should be expressed in messages intended for them. Not surprisingly, each of these segments has values and a vision of life that are quite different;  the tone and content of messages addressed to them when touting the benefits of an innovation must therefore evolve as an innovation is diffused in the market and they become the next target.


"Innovators" are individuals who are constantly looking to improve their lives, who are very focused on creativity and realizing their personal potential. To flourish, they need to feel they are getting ahead, that they are progressing in their lives and taking advantage of all the new opportunities available to them. Innovation is a stimulating challenge for them in the sense that they see it as a way to reinvent themselves and reinvent the way they do things in life, for the better. It acts as a springboard that propels them forward by helping push the limits of what is possible, for themselves and for society in general. These individuals are also animated by a strong sense of social idealism. Innovation as a driver of improvement for oneself, others, and the planet as a whole.

"Early adopters" share many values with "innovators", particularly the desire to improve and expand the boundaries of what is possible. Their social idealism is however less marked, as this segment is more rooted in a culture of proximity, valuing connections with relatives and the total fulfillment of the family unit. Innovation as driver of wellness and sharing with those who are dear to them.

Consumers who compose the "early majority" are primarily motivated by acquiring a status likely to be valued by others. They like to shine, to be admired by those around them; consumption reassures and stimulates them in the sense that it gives them the feeling of belonging to the privileged class (or, at least, getting closer to it). Innovation as a way to feel that one is someone, to build a social identity.

The last two segments, the "late majority" and "laggards", tend to feel threatened by innovation, which they perceive as a vector of isolation and further social exclusion. These two segments, especially the laggards, are reluctant to change their habits and feel a little at the mercy of external events. However, laggards are more withdrawn than the late majority, who strongly value commitment in their immediate community. These are also segments that consume on a practical basis. An innovation must therefore meet a very concrete need and integrate easily into their daily lives if they are to be interested. Innovation as a way to have some control over life, and, for the laggards, as a vector of community involvement.

According to the segment that we wish to sell an innovation to, it will thus benefit from being associated with:

• The new possibilities being offered to consumers (innovators)

• A notion of well-being or of closeness between people (early adopters)

• A notion of personal improvement (early majority)

• More down-to-earth benefits and increased control over one’s life (late majority and laggards)

Of course, these are large axes of values that distinguish large segments of the market, which would benefit by being refined by a better understanding of a product’s specific target. Our Panorama program is a valuable ally in this endeavour. Nevertheless, by way of illustration, here are some examples of commercials that target the heartstrings of the segments that are quickest to adopt innovations, especially the desire to push the limits and connect with loved ones.

1) Defining Innovation – BMW

2) Empowering – Microsoft

3) Man vs. Cheetah – Sketchers Gorun 2

4) Reunion – Google Search (Note: wonderful but lasts 3 ½ minutes)

5) Dear Sophie – Google Chrome

By CROP