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Diffusion Lifecycle


Creative tools > Diffusion Lifecycle

When to use it | How to use it | Example | How it works | See also


When to use it

Use it to identify the best people to talk with when you are first developing your idea.

Use it to classify target users when you are implementing your ideas.

Use it to help identify appropriate actions to get buy-in to your idea.



      X    Long



  X        Psychological



        X  Group


How to use it

Use the categories below to classify the different types of people you are targeting with your idea.

Innovators (2%)

Innovators are the first 2% of the population. They are interested in anything new, which they will quickly adopt, especially if it gives them kudos with other innovators.

'Techies' are a typical group of innovators. They like to buy the latest gadgets mostly to show off to other techies, rather than for any particular use.

Early Adopters (14%)

Early adopters enjoy the admiration of others in their adoption of new ideas, but are less interested in the kudos than the material advantage that they gain from using it.

Early Adopters pay particular attention to Innovators as they are a good source of the 'next great idea'.

A critical aspect of Early Adopters is that they are not wedded to the current ideas and products and will thus drop one thing if another looks like it will be more advantageous. They also have the money and freedom to be able to buy into new ideas and products.

There are two types of early adopter. The 'loner' is not concerned about others - they just want something to give them an advantage in what they do. This is typical of business users who have sufficient money and independence to be able to go their own way, despite the disapproving concerns of their peers.

The second type of Early Adopter is a social leader and a part of what they get from their early adoption is a demonstration of independence, standing out from the crowd. Eager to be like their leader, this Early Adopter's followers may well jump onto the bandwagon and also adopt the idea.

Early Majority (34%)

The Early Majority are something like a herd of cattle or a flock of sheep. Where one goes, the rest follow -- but the real question is who goes first, which is why they often hold back. The Early Majority are also held back because they fear buying a turkey, where they are later shown to have wasted their time and money.

They will look at Early Adopters and publicly frown whilst privately being envious. However, their social or business position does not free them to adopt without the approval of others.

A good strategy of getting to Early Adopters is to segment them further -- for within this group there is a hidden second Diffusion Lifecycle. If you can find the less reluctant Early Majority Innovators and Early Adopters, you can quietly get your idea adopted by these people and hence create the evidence of success that most Early Adopters need.

Convincing other Early Adopters needs a constant stream of evidence that gradually wins them over. You can create further evidence from review, reports, newsletters, demonstrations and so on.

Late Majority (34%)

The Late Majority are similar to the Early Majority in many ways - they just drag their feet more. In particular, they hate any form of hassle. They also have less money available and will wait for any cost to fall to rock-bottom. They typically shop at lower-cost stores and buy own-brand clothes, further evidence of their pecuniary constraints.

To get the Late Majority to buy into your idea, package it up so it works 'straight out of the box' and make it as cheap and easy as possible. Provide easy support and other ways of helping them to understand and use your idea.

Laggards (16%)

The Laggards are the one group you probably want to ignore, if you can. These are the Luddites, the Sloths, the Moles who will resist your idea until the bitter end.

The best approach to Laggards is often to find a way around them. Ignore them, isolate them, appease them with a distraction.

Occasionally you can convert Laggards, in which case they may become your greatest ally and advocate. They make powerful case-studies, as they show that anyone can understand and adopt your idea.

Note that the percentages for these groups are approximate: thus the Laggards may be much less than 16%, particularly if you are working with a selected group, say a set of people within a high-tech company, where few Laggards might seek employment.


I have invented a new type of wearable computer. To sell it initially, I take a stand at a national technology show. I advertise it in 'toys for boys' gadget magazines.

Later, I find niche markets where it will provide use, such as outdoor walkers, where portability is key.

Later again, I start to move into the mainstream market. To do this, I get lots of good reviews. I get celebrities using them. I get them used in the latest James Bond movie. I give them away in competitions. I go on TV about them.

Eventually, I manufacture them in a low-cost country using mainly automated techniques. I sell them in nice plastic boxes with clear instructions. I make a little more money in a pay-for telephone support service.

How it works

The Diffusion Lifecycle works by understanding different needs and approaches, in particular in the way that as a species we band together when faced with something we do not understand.

See also

Diffusion, Speeding Diffusion


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