“Adoption velocity” and abandonment: Here today, gone tomorrow …

TakeAway: Some research indicates that — counter-intuitively — products which catch on too quickly may end up being less successful overall.

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Excerpted from Knowledge@Emory, The Long-term Downside of Overnight Success,  September 16, 2009  

Marketers may dream of coming up with a product that skyrockets in popularity as soon as it is introduced to the public.

Research, however, indicates that products which catch on too quickly may end up being less successful overall.

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There are patterns in “cultural adoption and abandonment.” 

“We often see products, ideas and behaviors catch on and spread like wildfire. But we know less about why once-popular things become unpopular.”

“Most managers want their products to catch on faster, but our analysis suggests that this might not always be the best strategy. If something catches on too quickly, it might not only have a shorter lifespan, but may also end up being less successful overall. Faster adoption may hurt product success.”

Fads tend to be viewed negatively: “If people think that sharply increasing [popularity] will be short lived, they may avoid such items to avoid doing something that may later be seen as a flash in the pan.”

The research into the adoption and abandonment challenges some assumptions about the diffusion of a message and its saturation in the population, which is an important concept in marketing.

As a message spreads — or diffuses — through a population, it reaches more potential adopters. However, diffusion models typically assume a set target population size. But, a group may continually renew itself. Other factors, beyond diffusion and saturation, must be involved: “Adoption velocity is one such factor.”

Conventional wisdom would hold that if a message diffused through a population quickly, more potential adopters would be reached, improving the prospects for widespread adoption. “The effect of adoption velocity on the cumulative number adopters … shows that adoption velocity has a negative effect on the cumulative number of adopters.”

For example, in the music industry, new artists who bolt to the top of sales charts, often realize lower overall sales than those whose popularity grows more slowly. “This seemingly counterintuitive finding has important implications. One is that faster adoption is not only linked to faster abandonment, but may also hurt overall success.”

The research fits into the growing literature about “cultural dynamics.” By “more closely examining the psychological processes behind individual choice and cultural transmission, deeper insight can be gained into the relationship between individual (micro) behavior and collective (macro) outcomes such as cultural success.” 

Advertising might lead to fast adoption of a product, but the popularity of the product or service advertised might decline when that support dies off or switches to a substitute. “Importantly, though, results suggest that independently of its cause, a quick rise in popularity may have an accelerating effect on abandonment … as such, we anticipate that there will be an inherent tendency for items that have been adopted quickly to decline faster, even in cases where advertising persists.”

‘This is here today, gone tomorrow.'”

Full article:

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