As any marketing person knows, a product and/or service launch--hard or soft--must be a coordinated and diligent effort, never mind making sure that the offering is widely adopted as quickly as possible.

Time-to-market is not only important, but time to widespread adoption may be more critical for a quick Return on Investment (ROI) and a strong mindshare firewall. An age-old question is, Why do some people adopt certain ideas, products, services, etc. quicker than others?

Diffusion of Innovations

The "Diffusion of Innovations" theory has a set of robust principles that can shed light on the age-old question. In a nutshell, the theory's purpose is to provide individuals with a conceptual framework for understanding the process of diffusion and social change.

It aligns well with understanding how a product and/or service launch, among other innovations, can be tailored for the quickest diffusion possible across a market/segment.

It has become apparent in such areas as software, fiber optics, and data storage, among others, that ubiquitous user adoption or consumption is a prerequisite for a quick investment payback and a strong ROI. Getting employees, stakeholders, or consumers to quickly adopt an idea, strategy, product, or service is essential in realizing one's goals and objectives within a given time frame.

Diffusion research did not develop from a single discipline or a single event. The first discipline involved was anthropology. Among the other research areas that led to the expansion of the theory were: rural sociology, education, public health, communication, marketing and management, geography, general sociology, economics, and other traditions. The Theory Diffusion of Innovations is a theory that analyzes, as well as helps explain, the adaptation and adoption of a new innovation.

An innovation is defined as an idea, practice, or object (e.g., product and/or service) that is perceived as new by an individual or other user. It is the perceived novelty of the idea that determines someone's reaction to it.

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Michael L. Perla is a principal consultant at a sales and marketing consulting firm. He can be reached at