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Adoption and diffusion research in marketing Husband, Bryan Eric

Abstract

Product innovation has emerged as the most significant strategy in today's dynamic market place. The post-war years have seen an unprecedented flow of new and improved products. Successful innovation, however, requires more than placing new products on the market. Consumer acceptance is also required. The problems of achieving consumer acceptance are reflected in the high failure rates for new products. There are two main paths to more effective new product marketing and to increasing the probability of new product success. Effectiveness may be increased through better product testing and better evaluation of test results. Another approach involves a better understanding of consumers and their reactions to new products. The latter path, which is the least understood and the most obscure one, is being illuminated by borrowing concepts, generalizations and techniques from the interdisciplinary body of research called diffusion theory. Since the turn of the century, researchers in a variety of behavior science disciplines have studied the process of social contagion by which new ideas, practices, and products spread through a society. The conceptual framework of the resulting diffusion theory is composed of the following four elements; (1) the innovation, (2) its communication from one individual to another, (3) in a social system, (4) over time. The empirical research on diffusion of innovations has focused on the interaction of these four elements and their relationship to the adoption decision. Though the massive portion of diffusion research has been conducted outside the area of marketing, there is a small but increasing volume of literature and unpublished research on adoption and diffusion in the marketing field. Diffusion theory is providing a useful framework for analyzing new product buying behavior and understanding the dynamics of new product adoption and diffusion. Researchers are exploring the adoption and diffusion process for new products and services in both consumer and industrial marketing contexts. Interest is developing in the application of diffusion theory in planning and executing new product marketing strategy. Quantitative models of new product adoption behavior are being developed. The objective of this study is to provide a comprehensive review and synthesis of the existing body of diffusion research in marketing. The paper gives an overview of diffusion theory as a conceptual framework applicable to new product marketing, discusses current diffusion research in marketing and applications of diffusion theory by marketing practitioners, and presents a critical evaluation of the progress of diffusion research in the marketing field.

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