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Diffusion of Innovation
Unveiling the Secrets of Viral Success

The Marketplace of Ideas

Have you ever wondered how things suddenly go viral and start appearing everywhere? It doesn’t happen overnight. There’s a very calculated way that smart companies introduce things.

The Law of Diffusion of Innovation is a theory that explains how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technologies spread through cultures. Everett Rogers introduced it in his 1962 book “Diffusion of Innovations.” The theory suggests that different groups of people adopt new ideas and technologies at varying rates, and these groups can be categorized as follows:

Innovators (2.5%): These are the first to adopt new ideas or technology. They are risk-takers and are willing to try out new and untested ideas. Steve Jobs of Apple computer is an example. He revolutionized the technology industry by introducing groundbreaking products like the iPhone, iPad, and iPod. Under Job’s direction, Apple also played a significant role in shaping the modern digital landscape with the launch of iTunes and the App Store.

Early Adopters (13.5%): This group is eager to adopt new ideas, but they are more selective than innovators. They often hold positions of opinion leadership and serve as a bridge between innovators and the early majority. Oprah Winfrey has frequently been an early adopter of new ideas, products, and trends. Through her talk show, book club, and various other platforms, she introduced numerous concepts and products to her audience, influencing their adoption by the mainstream.

Early Majority (34%): This group adopts new ideas and technologies slightly faster than the average population. They tend to be more deliberate in their decision-making process and are influenced by the opinions of early adopters. Jamie Oliver, the celebrity chef and TV personality, can be considered part of the early majority. He has been a strong advocate for healthier eating habits and food education, particularly for children. Through his platform and culinary skills, Oliver has popularized cooking techniques, ingredients, and dishes that promote healthier lifestyles. Although not an innovator per se, he has been successful in spreading awareness and driving the adoption of healthier eating habits among a broader audience.

Late Majority (34%): This group is skeptical about new ideas and technologies and will adopt them only after they have been proven successful by the early majority. They often need external pressure to embrace change. Warren Buffett, the legendary investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is known for his conservative investment approach. While he has built a successful career through long-term value investing, he has often been slower to embrace new technologies or trends, such as the internet boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Laggards (16%): This group is the last to adopt new ideas or technology. They are often resistant to change and might only adopt new ideas when necessary or when the technology they currently use becomes obsolete. A good example of this is Larry Ellison, the co-founder of Oracle Corporation, who has been known to be skeptical about new technologies, at least initially. He was slow to embrace cloud computing, dismissing it as a fad in its early days. However, over time, he has recognized the importance of cloud technology and incorporated it into Oracle’s offerings.

Diffusion of Innovation

Understanding the law of diffusion of innovation helps businesses to tailor their marketing and communication strategies to target different groups of people for more effective sales.

It can also help you. When you see things explode in popularity, become a skeptic. Take these steps to learn more.

1. Repeat after me; testimonies aren’t truth; they’re a sales tactic. Talking heads explaining how something changed their life is just a technique to make you feel comfortable. It’s not actual proof something works. Ignore “life-changing” stories not backed up by evidence.

2. Don’t believe the spokesperson; they’re just a mouthpiece getting paid to tell you something is wonderful.

3. FOMO (The Fear Of Missing Out) is a real thing. Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean it works. Being the first to try out the latest smartphone isn’t going to harm your health. But re-arranging your diet based on your blood type can be dangerous. The more serious the consequences of trying something new, the more questions you should ask before doing it.

4. Dig into the facts. Ask for and read clinical trials. Investigate independent product reviews. Ask the opinion of experts who aren’t getting paid to lure you in. What does your doctor, pharmacist or nutritionist say?

5. Finally, if you don’t understand it, maybe you shouldn’t be buying it or trying it.

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Updated 5/5/2023