Google the definition of disruption and it will tell you that it’s a disturbance or problem which interrupts an event, activity, or process.  In a world where disruption has become the norm, it stands to reason that models and frameworks we have traditionally used as the foundation for business, may no longer be as relevant.

Marketing is all about how products and services move from concept to the customer and how customers behave during this process has been defined as the Adoption Lifecycle.  This is the basis of Marketing 101 and describes the evolution of a customer’s acceptance of a product or service, organizing it around four key stages, being early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards.  The graph shows the speed of consumption and the Adoption Lifecycle in action up to 2005.



In his popular book Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore proposed a variation of the original lifecycle and introduces the concept of a ‘chasm’.  According to Moore, leaders should focus on one group of customers at a time, using each group as a base for marketing to the next group. The most difficult step is making the transition between Early Adopters and Early Majority. This is the chasm that he refers to and many products and start-ups get stuck and are unable to move towards the Early Majority.

But, how relevant is the Adoption Lifecycle today, or even the chasm, when we are experiencing the speed of change that we are?  Our Marketing 101 teachings and even Moore’s suggested approach sounds very rational, very pragmatic, but a little slow and way too rational.  It feels that we are seeing a complete dismantling of the rules, driven by technology.


Is the Adoption Lifecycle now so compressed, we are jumping straight into Early Majority and skipping Early Adopters and also the chasm?  Or is the chasm no longer a chasm, but a crack that can be skipped over at a low cost and low risk?  Why would we think this?

  • Recent stats show that India has surpassed the US in terms of total Facebook users.  And the journey from its inception in September 2006 to 195 million users in 10 years is nothing short of incredible. Bringing users on its platform in a country considered to be a late adopter and behind in internet usage and infrastructure was considered impossible.
  • Just five days after Pokémon Go’s release date, it was at close to a 10% adoption rate among mobile users and quickly became the biggest mobile game ever, edging out Candy Crush Saga.  Compared to the second most popular app today, Facebook, iOS users are spending about 35% more time on Pokémon Go (according to AppInstitute).
  • In January, Microsoft announced that Windows 10 is now running on 200 million devices worldwide, up from 75 million in August 2015. Perhaps more surprisingly, Microsoft has nearly doubled its Windows 10 adoption since October, when it announced it had registered 110 million activations.  Microsoft state that Windows 10’s adoption rate is 140% faster than Windows 7 at the same point in that platform’s lifecycle and is outpacing Windows 8 by nearly 400%.
  • And you can’t have an innovation article which doesn’t mention Uber.  The app released in 2010 is available in 60 countries and 300 cities worldwide and has been estimated to be worth $50bn.  Uber used intense market focus to create local network effects in their launch city of San Francisco, while fueling word of mouth growth, leading to a growing network of passionate customers.

It seems that as opposed to a rules-based, methodical approach to marketing and innovation based on the Adoption Lifecycle, the big idea, executed flawlessly, to a well-connected population may just be the true adoption engine.  And it makes you wonder just what the new adoption cycle is.

More learning:

Crossing the Chasm: marketing and selling disruptive products to mainstream customers – Geoffrey A. Moore

Tags : Disruption;strategy
Rebecca Russell

The author Rebecca Russell

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