Why You Should Pay Attention To Laggards

Late adopters may be a critical high tech demographic, argues a marketing expert.

Traditional marketing strategy says that when it comes to launching new gadgets, marketers should target the early adopters first. These early adopters, people who generally buy any shiny gadget that comes along, consist of around 14 percent of the market and spread the word about their new prized-possessions, eventually convincing a great mass of the market to buy. This marketing strategy ignores a certain segment of the population, called laggards in marketing parlance, that are not really enticed by new devices and prefer to clutch on to their trusty old gadgets. By snubbing people in this segment, marketers are leaving a lot of money on the table, claims Jacob Goldenberg, a marketing professor at The Jerusalem School of Business Administration, Israel. Goldenberg argues that a laggard, merely by behaving like a laggard, can end up becoming the earliest of the early adopters by skipping multiple generations of products. He calls this phenomenon, the “leapfrog effect”.

To prove his theory, Goldenberg took out a survey:

Goldenberg surveyed 105 people in 2003 to find out what sort of portable audio players they owned. Bingo: Fully 10 percent had done exactly what Goldenberg predicted—they’d jumped from a cassette player straight to an MP3 player. Another 23 percent hadn’t bought anything yet to replace their cassette player, so presumably they, too, could leapfrog, possibly even becoming the folks who buy the next new thing.

He adds that if only 10 percent of laggards leapfrog to a radically new gadget, their purchases can drive profits from it 89 percent higher than they would be without leapfrogging. Goldenberg’s argument may have some merit as laggards form a substantial part of the population and moreover, the early adopters don’t need much convincing.

Jacob Goldenberg

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