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The Brand Adoption Cycle Is Wrong

Or at the very least, incomplete.


We all know the brand adoption cycle. It starts with innovators, moves to early adopters, followed by the early majority and—if the brand’s successful—finally attracts the late majority. It may never get to the laggards, but that’s ok. A brand can thrive even then.


But there’s something you can’t see just by looking at the model. You’re not just making the transition from early majority to late majority: You’re making the transition from Liberal to Conservative.  An analysis of MRI data from a twenty-five-year period shows a consistent pattern of Liberals and Conservatives using different products. Conservatives buy more Jif peanut butter, Wranglers and Dockers clothing, Cool Whip topping, Tyson chicken, and Betty Crocker cake mixes. Liberals eat more Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and drink more Celestial Seasonings tea, Poland Spring water, Sam Adams and Corona Extra beer.


And since this is a transition involving identity—speaking to people at their core—you can’t just assume what you’ve been doing will continue to work.


Instead, you must realize you’re talking to different people with different priorities. You have to shift your language and move away from high information to high social proof. It’s a change in content and a change in tactics.


My revised model accounts for political polarization, which you may not have previously known plays a large role in the brand cycle. When you’re trying to transition to the late majority, you run into an effect of political polarization. That’s why it’s becoming harder and harder to make the transition. 


If you would like a copy of my revised brand adoption cycle, please email me. 

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Karen Tibbals @KarenTibbals

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