Friday, May 21, 2010

On crossing the chasm and reshaping the adoption curve

Moore's bestseller, Crossing the chasm talks about the diffusion of innovation through the technology adoption distribution as though it is a static distribution of people ranging from early adopters to laggards. The book presents a framework to study the dynamics of adoption of a certain idea (or more often, commercial product) and helps us understand its spread from being niche meme to mass hysteria to slow fade out.

Marketing-to-geek ideologies suggest that innovators, rather than making 'average products for average people' (to paraphrase the ideologies of giants such as UniLever and P&G from the mid-20th century) should target the early adopters and recruit their faith and passion to help cross the chasm.

In reality however, the adoption distribution is not static. There is a constant traffic of people from one part of the distribution to another. Laggards sometimes open up, and tend to become mainstream adopters. In other situations, mainstream adopters can become early adopters. People evolve into some ideas, and devlove into others. This flow in turn may be steeply dependent on a few irreducible parameters. I wonder how much this kind of flow has been modeled or studied in behavioral economics, for instance.

Given this assumption of a parametrically varying adoption distribution, it is possible to conceive of a new marketing strategy, which would come up with methods prepare or pre-seed the adoption distribution by tracking the right parameters which control people flow, so that we have inherently more early adopters than mainstream users or laggards. The chasm would not be one static point in the distribution somewhere between the early adopters and the early mainstream, but shuffle around depending on this people-flow across the distribution. We could call such a marketing strategy: Where is the Chasm now?

It is my gut feeling that general purpose initiatives which aim to inspire people and make them take a proactive, curious, experimental stance to life such as TED, would play a very strong role in making the chasm move left, and would thus become a more and more integral aspect of marketing functions in insitutions worldwide.

1 comment:

Caterina said...

Very clever idea! I wonder how dynamic the dynamics are? ie is the chasm static to first order with higher-order dynamic permutations which are too small to significantly change base market strategies? Or are the dynamic changes occuring on a large-scale to warrant seriously rethinking the bell curve? If there is research on this it would be good to cite.