It was one of those days that defined the Murphy’s Law. The car had no fuel, I was terribly late to a meeting, and even my so-called-dependent apps were not able to get me a ride. My only choice was to use the historic method of hailing my own auto-rickshaw.
The driver had a small notebook, in which he quickly scribbled away the ride details and money earned so far, as I sat inside. As we rode, I saw him looking at the other auto-rickshaws in disgust, which had touchscreen smart devices fitted on their windshields, a true mark of an Ola/Uber vehicle. When I asked him, why he has not yet associated himself with one of these apps, he gave a long answer, knocking out the whole idea, although it was crystal clear that the answer was he just didn’t want to learn.
In marketing, the low-lying fruit in any target segment seems to be the one to be targeted first, but why? The diffusion of innovation theory suggests that if a brand can convert the early adopter segment to innovators, the rest will follow suit.
Obviously in the case of my driver, this transformation had yet not happened. Therefore, is there merit in inserting this theory in their heads, thereby going after the late adopters/ laggards segment first? Agreed that this would be a long process and the conviction & persistence one would need should be at its highest, but it could also be the approach that bears greatest fruit in the long term.
The outcome of reversing diffusion and going after the tail end, a large portion of almost half (49%) of the market, could actually be quite substantial. In our society, it is easy to identify which type of consumer one is, and while it may change as per the product nature and category, a little common sense and some detailed observation can make the segregation quite easy to be differentiated.
The biggest challenge of any new product, category or innovation is the ability to change behavior of the target segment and getting the audience to try it at least once. Post that, the success is really in the hands of the product, its ease of usage and the value proposition it provides. If people see that a categorized ‘laggard or late majority’ segment is using a product or innovation, then of course, it would be easy for them. This had happened to me when I saw my mother using Urban Clap to get some handy work done around the house. Post this observation, I started using the same at home without giving a single thought about the effort of changing my current behavior. As herd mentality kicks in with a sprinkle of embarrassment, the early adopters/majority and innovators will quickly be followed along.
Harder Work, Larger Payoff
This approach will require marketing and brand teams to work overtime and understand how to change the most difficult target segment. This will force them to get to the minutest level of their persona, attitudes and psychology. Message constructs need to be perfect for this, and the measurement metrics need to be real time to ensure malleability of approach every now and then. But then with all the hard work done, the payoff would be a wholesome capture of the entire audience.
Think of the segments in the diffusion of innovation to be ‘dominoes’- as you knock down one the rest will fall. The only incorrect assumption would be that all the dominoes weigh the same. In this case, they don’t. As you move across the curve, the dominoes will get heavier and heavier, leaving a chance that not all may be knocked down, but then, why don’t we just knock down the dominoes from the other side? Tougher, yet an approach, that could bear more substantial and sustainable outcomes.
Patience: The Only Drawback
Going for the long shot has its own set of drawbacks, too. The biggest drawback is if you fail in knocking down the heaviest domino, it could spell death for the product. The risk is high in this approach, but recent history tells us that only the brand willing to take the biggest risks have seen the biggest success, or to say even more realistically, survived.
The other disadvantage could be another product coming in and sweeping your low lying audience from beneath you; this would require the brand to use the long shot approach and not only work fast, but slightly discreet. As the laggard/late majority audience don’t normally give opinions too quickly, this can be still be possible.
The market dynamics have forced marketers to think differently. The age old models of marketing may not necessarily be as applicable as they were once, and marketing, as a practice, has become a more treacherous and tiring journey. When we work out, we always do the toughest exercises first as they may be skipped if we leave them for the last. The same theory applies here. If the marketing journey is going tough, let’s finish up with the uphill climbs, harsh terrain and bad weather sections first, and then, go autopilot to finish the race. Let’s then take the little risks, and go all in. Yes, let’s go after ‘the long shot’.
(The author is CEO, Ideosphere Consulting)