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Consumer Innovators Know Few Boundaries

As the world marketplace expands, a new study shows how marketers can more shrewdly channel their resources to target “consumer innovators,” people who are the most likely to adopt a new technology or manufactured good, when launching a product worldwide. It turns out these consumer innovators have a lot in common, despite their cultural differences.

Understanding consumer innovation across countries, demographics and product categories was the impetus for the large-scale study “Global Consumer Innovativeness: Cross-Country Differences and Demographic Commonalities” led by Gerard Tellis, director of the Center for Global Innovation and a marketing professor at the USC Marshall School of Business who collaborated with co-authors Eden Yin (University of Cambridge) and Simon Bell (University of Melbourne).

Among the study’s findings:

• In assessing an individual’s propensity to try new products, demographic predictors (age, wealth, education and mobility) were common, despite strong cultural differences.

• Certain demographics predict consumer innovativeness in certain categories. For example, younger consumers (ages 20-29) are more eager to buy automobiles than other age groups. Meanwhile, highly educated consumers are more eager to buy financial services.

• Consumer eagerness for new products varies substantially by product category and country. For example, the countries most eager to try new food products are Sweden and Canada while India, Korea, China and Brazil are less eager.

• Brazilians are most eager to buy cosmetics, while Japanese are most eager to buy electronic products.

• Researchers need to be clever in asking questions about innovation because of a consumer’s tendency to overstate their innovativeness.

Tellis and his co-authors collected data from about 5,500 consumers from 15 major countries, including the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, India and Brazil.

“This research was performed on a huge scale,” said Tellis, adding that the study has direct implications for the crafting of business strategy and government policies.

For example, based on this research, Tellis, who has experience launching new products via his past service as a sales development manager at Johnson & Johnson, recommended that businesses employ a “waterfall strategy” (i.e., a country-to-country tiered release) versus a “sprinkler strategy” (all at one time) for new products, making sure to vary their approach depending on the country and product category.

Governments can apply this research when introducing new products, such as fuel-efficient cars, and services to their citizens. “This study tells them whom to target first in which regions,” Tellis said.

To read the complete study, visit

Evy Jacobson | Newswise Science News
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