Monday, August 06, 2007

Influentials and the Diffusion of Innovation

Dave Van Dyke and his Bridge Ratings service have just released a new study that digs in on a group of listeners Dave has branded as New Influentials. You can read the whole study report here. Dave's study found that 10.2% of radio's audience fit into this group of Influentials that are heavy users and very likely to 'spread the word' and lead others towards various formats, stations or personalities. The level of New Influentials is a little higher for Satellite Radio and Internet Radio.

Looking over the data brought back some marketing memories studying The Normal Curve and a study from the 50's called The Diffusion of Innovation.

The Normal Curve (or bell curve) is a theory based on the occurrence of any trait or behavior and is the basis for all research. The probability of something occurring within our behavior and our reliability in predicting or detecting that trait are all demonstrated and calculated in the model of the curve. All 'things' happen under the curve and the middle of the curve is where you see the highest occurrence of a trait or behavior which trails off in either direction. The middle also represents a place where we are most likely to find the trait or behavior. There are tons of formulas that are the basis of Statistics and Probability theories and figure the reliability of any study, sample variance and a host of other measurement facets.

Back in the 50s and early 60s a professor at Iowa State Evertt Rogers was trying to see how we could spread all the science and innovations going on in the 50s for farming to other countries where they were struggling to feed their populations. His books on the Diffusion of Innovation are based on the Normal Curve, breaking the populations into 5 distinct groups based on how they adapt new innovations, technology or products:
  • Innovators - 2.5% - the first to pick up on an innovation or product.

  • Early Adaptors - 13.5% - this group spreads the news on the product.

  • Early Majority- 34% - With this group you are at 50% of the population.

  • Late Majority - 34% - As you cross the center line of the Normal Curve note that curve goes down!!

  • Laggards - 16% - The last to jump on

Dave's study really shows us the importance of the Innovators and crossing to a majority of the Early Adaptors. With that 10-12% you are poised to influence the Early Majority and get your station, personality or format (your brand) to that point where you can reach 1/2 of the market and beyond. This is what is also called - The Tipping Point in Malcolm Gladwell's works.

How many times have we seen strategies and tactics in programming that leave out the Innovators and the Early Adaptors? Taking out some of the features or key elements that made the station unique, tightening the music so much that we leave this influential group searching for a new innovation. Trying to smooth over a strong personality to be more adaptable to the Late Majority.

You also have to keep in mind that the audience under this Normal Curve is in a constant state of change as innovations and products in every sector and our own sector are launching. Each is gathering it's own series of innovators, early adaptors and spreading to the majorities. To stay ahead you have to identify who your Innovators and Early Adaptors are and keep them high on the station.

As you market the station and develop the content make sure you are balancing both the Innovators and Early Adaptors with the Early and Late Majorities. Perhaps one of the big reasons we see the new media building so much momentum is that Radio has left the Innovators and Early Adaptors behind and while we still enjoy the acceptance and usage of the large Majorities and the Laggards how much longer till the Majorities adapt the new technologies?

In the early 90s more studies and theories focused on crossing the line between the Early Adaptors and the Early Majority as we began to see many innovations struggle to reach beyond a small group of fanatic followers. Crossing the Chasm by Geffeory Moore is probably the best book.

The keys to using these theories and ideas in your marketing plan is making sure you are balancing your efforts. Remember that you are also marketing your product on your product - the imaging, on-air promotion, music mix, and personality all support the innovation of your product. Making sure that you have a balance in all areas for both the Innovators and Early Adaptors as well as the Majorities is the key to long term success for any station and really for our media as a whole.

Thanks to Dave and the Bridge Ratings folks for bringing these basics back into the spotlight.

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