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Why consumers resist innovation – part three

19 September, 2016

The first two parts of this series talked about active and passive innovation resistance – two forms of resistance that negatively influence the adoption of new products, especially if products contain radical innovation.

Why consumers resist innovation – part three

Therefore, marketers should consider both types of innovation resistance in order to increase the likelihood of consumers adopting a new product.

In this article, I will explore three marketing tools that can be used in order to overcome the two different types of innovation resistance.

Before doing so, however, it is important to understand that such tools should be selected with respect to the objective of a campaign or the barriers a product is likely to face in a particular target market. For instance, if a company introduces a highly innovative product (perhaps a robotic lawnmower), it is likely that this product is incongruent with existing usage patterns. It therefore requires a change of behaviour from the consumer. One of the marketing objectives should consequently be to reduce the usage barrier/the resistance towards change. If a product is, in contrast, likely to face a target audience with a high Status-quo-Satisfaction, it might be more important to address this particular issue in order to increase the probability of a purchase.

One tool to increase the success of breakthrough products is through ‘mental simulation’. This tool is often used in advertising and ‘encourages consumers to mentally imagine themselves using a new product’[1]. It is a learning strategy that helps consumers to understand a new product and to ‘align it with existing usage patterns’[2]. It is therefore highly effective in reducing passive resistance towards innovation. Adverts that stimulate the mental imagery of a scenario in which the consumer uses the product can enhance their understanding of the innovation and reduce the perceived changes related to the product.

Another approach is the ‘benefit comparison’. Consumers who are highly satisfied with existing products might be less receptive of new products. Communicating the relative benefits of a new product over existing alternatives can therefore help to decrease the Status-quo-Satisfaction and increase the perceived advantages of the new product.[3]

Finally, product demonstrations offer an opportunity to reduce the negative effects of active innovation resistance on adoption intention. They are particularly effective in cases where a consumer perceives the value of the innovation to be lower than it actually is.[4] The performance of household robots, for example, is often underestimated by consumers until they experience the product in action. The ideal product demonstration involves the consumer having a chance to try the product for themselves, in the presence of a sales person to whom they can ask questions. Since consumers experience the functionality of the new product, they can understand how it works and therefore the perceived risk decreases. In addition, a product demonstration can help the consumer to envision how the innovation would both fit into and benefit their lifestyle. Product demonstrations are therefore effective in reducing both risk and usage barriers while increasing the chance of a purchase.

In conclusion marketing tools should always be carefully selected - based on the objective one is trying to achieve and bearing in mind that each type of resistance can be addressed individually and through different tools.

[[1]]Feiereisen, S., Wong, V. and Broderick, A.J., 2008. Analogies and Mental Simulations in Learning for Really New Products: The Role of Visual Attention. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 25 (6), pp.593 - 607.
[[2]] Heidenreich, S. and Kraemer, T., 2016. Innovations — Doomed to Fail? Investigating Strategies to Overcome Passive Innovation Resistance. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 33 (3), pp.277-297.
[[3]] Heidenreich and Kraemer, 2016.
[[4]] Heiman, A. and Muller, E., 1996. Using Demonstration to Increase New Product Acceptance: Controlling Demonstration Time. Journal of Marketing Research (JMR), 33 (4), pp.422 - 430.

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