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The product life cycle and product diffusion

Product Diffusion Curve

Consumers can be grouped according to how quickly they are willing to adopt a new product. Some consumers look for new products because they desire to be perceived as innovators and see possession of new products as providing social kudos. Innovators will adopt a new product as soon as it becomes available. At the other extreme, certain consumers will be reticent to adopt any new product until totally proven. These laggards will be the last to purchase.

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The Roger's diffusion model has been criticised for being not only simplistic, but empirically unproven. Rogers focuses on individual personality such as risk taking behaviour and levels of education, but ignores the role of social influence in product diffusion. Viral marketing is a perfect example of social influence in action.

Not only is Rogers model criticised for its narrow focus, but also because individuals are not consistent in their purchasing behaviour. It appears from research that consumers are innovators not because of their personal traits, but simply because they are one of the first 2.5% of purchasers of a new product regardless of their demographic, socio-economic, or personality characteristics.

Indeed, Philip Kotler argued in Marketing Management (1991) that:

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No one has demonstrated the existence of a general personality trait called innovativeness. Individuals tend to be innovators in certain areas and laggards in others.

Nonetheless, despite its apparent weaknesses, understanding of the Roger's model is useful for several reasons, it:

  1. highlights the fact that purchasers of a product will change over time
  2. links neatly with the product life cycle
  3. demonstrates that the marketing mix should change as a product moves through its life cycle
  4. illustrates that the market mix is never a static formula.