How new is too new to different types of customers?

New technology products are often marketed for their functionality – what they can do for consumers. Often forgotten is how owning a new product makes consumers feel – an important component of the buying decision. This research studies the differences between independents (people who prefer to feel unique or distinct from others) and interdependents (those who value being part of a group) and the impact of their self-perspective on their adoption of new products.

What you need to know:

Consumers who value independence are more likely to adopt really new products that provide them with a feeling of uniqueness. In contrast, those who value being part of a group are more likely to purchase incrementally new products that give them a sense of belonging. Marketers can impact these buying decisions by using messages that either enhance or dampen the distinctiveness of the product depending on who they are targeting.

More Details:

What did the researchers do?

Zhenfeng Ma, Zhiyong Yang and Mehdi Mourali asked: what impact does an independent vs. interdependent mindset have on the adoption of new products? In a series of five studies, the team examined:

  1. the effect of mindsets on adoption;
  2. the relationship between a product’s newness and the ideal state of distinctiveness consumers want; and
  3. the effect of popularity versus scarcity cues on the buying decisions of consumers.

What did the researchers find?

Independents are more likely to adopt really new products (RNPs) and interdependents are more likely to adopt incrementally new products (INPs). These preferences for RNPs or INPs are based on how the consumer feels they will be perceived in buying the product – will they be seen as just the right amount of different that they want to be? The researchers also found that marketing cues can reverse the expected buying patterns. Distinctiveness-enhancing messages can make independents more willing to adopt INPs and distinctiveness-dampening messages can make interdependents more willing to adopt RNPs.

How can you use this research?

Firms considering foreign market entry can use this research to determine their optimal entry strategy based on their product’s newness and the cultural orientation of the target market. Aligning RNPs with individualistic societies at product launch can accelerate success. Linking INPs with collectivistic societies first is likely to succeed.

Marketers of new products can use this research to adapt communication plans as the newness of their product changes. They can also determine appropriate marketing cues to use based on the culture of the target market – using mass advertising or buzz marketing to convey popularity or restricting supply and using prestige pricing strategies to convey scarcity.

Want to know more?

Contact Zhenfeng Ma

Article citation: Ma, Z., Yang, Z., Mourali, M. (2014). Consumer Adoption of New Products: Independent Versus Interdependent Self-Perspectives. Journal of Marketing, 78, pp. 101-117.

Megan Hall

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Megan Hall