Forget Early Adopters — What About Non-Adopters and Un-Adopters?
Marketers love early adopters of new technology. They focus huge amounts of energy on them — which makes economic sense, as they’re usually the pathfinders and even evangelists for the mass of consumers who will follow their lead.
Where some marketers may be missing a trick, however, is in only ever looking at early adopters and the people who follow them, sheep-like, while completely ignoring the non-adopters (those immune to the charms of a new gadget) and the un-adopters (those who tried it, used it and fell out of love with it).
Arguably there’s so much more to be learned from those people who either reject the innovation from the outset or, perhaps even more importantly, take it up — and then ditch it. Marketers could profit from understanding why some people are immune or move on, rather than only looking at those who remain loyal.
If they don’t, if they base their plans only on the reactions of those who love their products and the masses for whom they are "good enough," they’re heading for trouble.
The Slow-Tech Backlash
Take digital marketing: After years of resistance, brands have finally started investing significant budgets into reaching out to consumers and end users via email, online advertising and mobile — and what happens?
Ad blocking. Spam filters. ‘Do not call’ registers. Consumers are revolting against the intrusive nature of new technology.
Marketers should have seen this coming: Look at the ‘Slow Food’ and craft alcohol movements. Both were reactions to a fast-paced, increasingly globalized lifestyle where brand differentiation was created by slick marketing campaigns, rather than by real differences in quality of product, raw materials, manufacturing process and customer service. Or, given that we’re talking food and drink here, taste.
The idea of slow tech or no tech certainly seems to chime with a significant chunk of Millennial consumers.
In 2016, Kantar Futures’ MONITOR rolling research program asked Millennials about their relationships with their smartphones: 76 percent said they couldn’t get by without their smartphones (compared with 67 percent across the whole responder base) — but 69 percent said they wished they had more self-control and weren’t always checking their phones, while 71 percent said they wished they could spend more of their free time completely disconnected from technology.
Search the Internet for terms like "slow tech," "no tech" and "digital detox," and you’ll get thousands of results from a whole range of companies and individuals looking to sell you retreats from the 21st century.
Leaving aside the inherent self-contradiction involved in technology being used as the main channel to market an escape from technology, there does seem to be a significant demand for tech-free peace and tranquillity.
Tech Escapists, Not Luddites
We’re not talking about people wanting to become Trappist monks, or Luddites, smashing machines.
Yes, there are a small number of technophobes who probably do want to drop out, move to the woods and — in the words of a recent TV ad for UK broadband provider PlusNet — “become a full-time off-grid spoon whittler.” But, as our MONITOR research shows, two-thirds of the population, and three-quarters of Millennials, don’t want to give up their smartphones.
Mark Inskip is Global CEO of global strategic insights and innovation consultancy Kantar Futures (part of WPP) where he is responsible for global strategy, culture and performance. He is also Global Account Director – Unilever for Kantar.
Prior to this, he held the post of European Managing Director for Group FMG, a global provider of high impact marketing & media solutions; integrating consulting, content, e-commerce and mobile commerce. Prior to joining FMG, Inskip was Regional Director of Consulting for Ogilvy & Mather. Before this he was at Accenture where he led the creation of its Digital Marketing Consultancy.