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Updated: May 23, 2021

When a product is moving along the Innovation Life Cycle from Early Adopters to Laggards, how do you advertise your product or service to the latter customer segment? Simple. By putting the laggards as protagonists in the ads.

Of lately, we all have been seeing an influx of ads showcasing elderly customers as protagonists. These ads are either showcased as a parent-children relationship wherein the parent seeks help while using the app or targeted towards the aged population wherein an old person might be shown navigating through the app, highlighting the motive of category penetration by the marketers. The article thus brings us to some important marketing terms; Innovation Life Cycle and Category Penetration.

What is the Innovation Life Cycle?

Known by different names like Innovation Adoption Lifecycle, Technology Adoption Lifecycle, Diffusion of Innovation Theory or Innovation Life Cycle, this graph tells us about the journey of a new product or service through the 5 stages. The percentages describe the concentration of customers in each stage.

  • Innovators – The ones who love to enjoy the pride of being the first ones to try out any new and innovative product that has been launched in the market. Although this stage comprises the least amount of population, the customers belong to a young age group, high social class and have great financial lucidity.

  • Early Adopters – This is a group that decides the success or failure of an innovative product. Consumers lying in this group are like sneezers (a term coined by Seth Godin), who become the advocates of the products or services they’ve had an experience with. Known as opinion leaders, they accelerate the speed of the new product in the marketplace by influencing others to buy it.

  • Early Majority – Acceptance of a new product by this segment majorly depends upon the opinions shared by early adopters. Though they enter the cycle a little late, their acceptance becomes very crucial because the highest number of the population lies in this segment.

  • Late Majority – The ones who are the highest on scepticism while adopting the new product. They only try a product when they are assured that the majority of the population has tried and tested it.

  • Laggards – This segment is sceptical towards change and is highly conservative. The aged consumers are usually categorised as laggards who are focused on a tradition. They only adopt a new product when the existing product becomes obsolete and they are left with no other option.

How is it useful?

The study of the Product Innovation Lifecycle helps the marketer in understanding her target customers better. While introducing a new product in the market, it is imperative to decide the customer segment that will become the initial target of the marketer. If not decided in advance, the marketer can commit a grave mistake of either introducing the new product to a general segment or to a wrong segment altogether; as is been illustrated in this cartoon. The salesman here is selling his innovation to the wrong customer. The king is resistant to change his traditional style of fighting and thus, completely unaware of what evolution the gun can bring to the battlefield. Had the salesman done his research beforehand, he would have been able to identify the right customer for the product. Therefore, the diffusion of innovation theory prepares the marketer with the knowledge of customer segments and who would be the potential buyers in the initial stage.

What is Category Penetration?

When advertising a product in the market, the objectives can broadly be either category penetration or brand penetration.

Category penetration means when a marketer in and advertisement tries to educate the target customers regarding the information, usability and features about the product. For example, the ad for Godrej Expert hair colour with the tagline ‘Kato Gholo Lagalo’ would be termed as category penetration as it teaches the target customer (particularly people in their 50s) about the simple and easy method of using the product to dye their hair.

On the other hand, Brand penetration is done when a marketer wants to highlight her product or service as superior to that of a competitor’s product. For example, the classic ad of ‘White ho toh Tide ho’ tries to position Tide as the best product among all detergent powders when it comes to cleaning and washing their white clothes.

Targeting the Laggards!

Taking back this article to where we started, the pandemic has brought the conventional customers closer to products and services already popular among Gen Z. Or at least, marketers are now re-introducing their offerings to the last customer segment in the innovation life cycle which in India, mainly comprises of parents or grandparents.

We remember online platforms being endorsed by young couples emphasizing the ease of using Amazon Pantry to target Gen Z and millennial. Later on, Amazon shifted the focus from Gen Z to Gen X, pointing out just the right features that would enlighten Gen X. Endorsed by an elderly married couple; the ad showcases the advantages of buying through Amazon Pantry and waving off the most tedious job for parents – Grocery Management. By the end, it throws light on what exactly the laggards might be reluctant to switch to the app for groceries – Discounts and savings. The shifted focus targets the parents to easily manage and order their groceries, without compromising on their important work.

Around two months ago, WhatsApp came up with a #ItsBetweenYou campaign that showcased the confidentiality of information being shared through the app. In both its ads, it showcased laggards getting comfortable while sharing messages through the app and highlighted basic features like taking pictures, attaching documents and attending video calls with a swipe up on the app.

Although Spotify launched its Sunte Ja campaign almost about one year ago, starring Anil Kapoor and Ishaan Khatar in a father-son duo, recently (two weeks ago) it brought back the campaign but with a twist. Where earlier in the campaign, the ad majorly showed the son (Ishaan Khattar) operating the app, this time it focuses more on the laggards. The ad shows the father himself learning to operate and enjoy the app and reflecting how easy it is (even for the apps) to navigate through the app and enjoy the seamless experience (‘Ek ke baad ek’) of listening to the music

Launched recently by CRED along with the IPL Season 2020, the 90s inspired multi-film campaign (Not everyone gets it) is trying to leverage the complete advantage of this prime time by grabbing the attention of laggards with its 90s music. Endorsed by Anil Kapoor in the same manner as was loved by Gen X; full of energy and enthusiasm doing the famous hook step he is popularly known for. With the catchy music, the ad tries to highlight the hassle-free payment feature offered by the app.

Looking through all these examples, it can be clearly observed that online streaming apps are now trying to attract and acquire the laggards in their customer base. Where earlier campaigns by the same brands were being endorsed by younger actors to target Gen Z, these brands are now being endorsed by senior actors, so that the elderly customer segment can resonate with them. Pointing out one more commonality in the aforementioned ads, the marketer has tried to reintroduce its brands by educating the target customers (Category penetration) about the values and experience provided by the brands

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