The Emotional Adoption Curve

You’ve heard of the Technology Adoption Curve, yea? In Marty Cagan’s book Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love, he references an insightful talk he had with Jeff Bonforte, then a VP at Yahoo! and now the CEO of Xobni.

Bonforte has a slightly different view of Geoffrey Moore’s Technology Adoption Curve. Instead of looking at just the psychographics of each user group, he adds an additional layer: the driving emotions of each user group. Here is how Bonforte’s user groups map to Moore’s:

The Lovers = Innovators
They purchase something new because they believe it is cool and feel passionately about it. Determining product or service offerings on them can lead to misleading results because their motivations are very different from the other groups.
The Irrationals = Early Adopters
They purchase something new because they are very frustrated with a problem this product or service aims to solve. Their purchase decisions are driven by the same emotions as the majority, but with more intensity. This means their purchase decisions are not always economically rational.
The Efficients = Early Majority
They purchase something new because it solves their problems in a practical way for a reasonable cost. Essentially, they are driven by the same emotions as Irrationals, but with less intensity. Thus, their purchase decisions are more pragmatic.
The Laughers = Late Majority
They purchase something because it is proven, readily affordable, and easy to use. Like the Efficients, they are driven by the same emotions, but at a low, muted level.
The Comfortable = Laggers
They feel their current solutions are good enough and don’t see a good reason to purchase new solutions. While they may have the same problems as the others, they don’t mind.

New technologies tend to attract Lovers and Irrationals alike. However, for the longevity of your business, you should target Irrationals and not Lovers. If you don’t distinguish between the two, you might accidentally build features for Lovers, leaving Irrationals unserved and disappointed. Why is that bad? As Bonforte puts it:

Lovers are the worst possible people in the world from a product manager’s perspective. …they mislead you one hundred percent of the way. Lovers buy a Prius because they like the battery technology.

On the other hand, Irrationals buy a Prius because they love the environment so much they’ll spend $22,000 over the benefit of the environment. They could just buy carbon credits and carbon neutralizers themselves, or they could get a motorcycle, but they overspend on the solution because they’re passionate about the problem they’re trying to solve.

…You really need the Irrationals to slingshot your business into the Efficients and the Laughers. Without that emotion from those irrational people you don’t get the passion that carries the product over the chasm.

If you have a new product, does it target Lovers or Irrationals? How can you tap into customers who care so passionately about the problem you’re trying to solve that they’ll pay a premium for your offerings?

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.

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