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H807 – Early adopters or early majority

February 27, 2011

Early adopters or early majority – Roger’s Innovator theory vs. Moore’s chasm theory – who is the key?

Let’s start with giving a brief summary of both theories, before starting to compare them.

Roger’s Innovator theory

Rogers is a Stanford University Professor and his innovator theory relates to the spread of innovation. As we already know, Roger classified consumers according to how quick they purchase a product. The innovators (2,5%) are the quickest, they tend to focus on product’s novelty, but not on their potential benefits. Opinion leaders (early adopters – 13,5%) instead focus not only on the novelty, but on the newly available benefits that might appeal to the majority of consumers. They are the ‘trend setters’, they tell consumer what is ‘in’, they are thought to have a great deal of influence over consumers, they come up with actual ways  of using a product that it starts to find its place in the market. Roger claims that opinion leaders hold the key to product diffusion and therefore companies are well-advised to get opinion leaders on board in order to establish innovations within the market.

Moore’s Chasm theory

Moore an American marketing consultant disagree with Roger and claims that a hidden chasm exist between the early market and the later main street market and if this chasm cannot be crossed than the diffusion of innovations will cease at an early stage. Moore explains that in the technology introduced in early market only attracts early adopters (Rogers opinion leaders), those who think it is cool to have something that others don’t have and those who see it as potentially disruptive. Pragmatic buyers (i.e. Rogers early majority) might be curious, but make no commitments. Technology  is caught betwixt and between. If a new technology/innovation does not convince pragmatic buyers fast enough that it would be a safe and useful purchase, then it will stick in a small niche market and will not cross the chasm to the mainstream market on the other side.

Yet, comparing both theories I come to the conclusion that  Roger and Moore are actually talking more or less about the same thing, just using different terminology. As you say if the opinion leaders are not convincing enough, thus have not enough influence over other consumers, then the innovation get stuck in the early market and don’t cross over in the mainstream market. Roger claims they hold the key to product diffusion as a whole, thus the hold the key, they know how to bridge the chasm. Does that mean that Roger and Moore are talking ultimately about the same thing? thoughtful

What are the strength and weaknesses of Moore’s chasm theory and what are the implications for my own life/work/etc?

I am not really sure if there are any strength and weaknesses. Well, probably one strength might be that Moore’s theory might help us to explain why some innovations do not make it to mainstream use. But does that really explain why Moodle which was introduced about two years ago is still only used by a minority of the teachers in most schools. The question still remains why did it fail to cross the chasm. In activity 4 we are asked to consider what counts as innovation and why are some innovations more successful than others. Kaye and Hawkridge (2003) provide a list with tests why an innovation was selected or why other innovations were rejected. Looking through the list why innovations were rejected one point seems to apply – innovation was to vaguely defined and I would add and less supported. What implications does that have on my work. Belonging to the early adopters mean that you have a lot more work designing new teaching material, considering new teaching and learning methods. You are one of the first ones, which is a challenge and if you like to be the first who enter ‘new’ territory you might enjoy it having no limits, but it also means that you cannot really ask somebody else for advice, it is more or less a trail and error teaching and that is not always fun, especially if students do not share your enthusiasm.


Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-tech Products to Mainstream Customers, New York, HarperBusiness.

Kaye, R. and Hawkridge, D. (eds) (2003) Learning and Teaching for Business: Case Studies of Successful Innovation, London and Sterling, Kogan Page.

Rogers, E.M. (2003) Diffusion of Innovations (5th edn), New York, Simon and Schuster.

The Innovator Theory [online], Tokyo, Mitsue-Links (Accessed 1 December 2010).

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