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How to market to early adopters

The people who spread the word about your latest product and the people who take it up first. That’s why it is useful to know what makes these ‘early adopters’ most likely to respond to your messages. A recent study by marketing agency Protein, the Audience Report 2016,  spoke to 5,000 early adopters across the globe to find out what makes this audience tick. Will Rowe, CEO of Protein, explains why it was decided to focus on early adopters, and why they are a hard audience to influence: “Never before has there been so much marketing noise for a brand to try and cut through in order to engage with an audience. The early-adopter audience has grown up in a world completely surrounded by marketing messages and is fully aware of even the most nuanced elements of branding “

So how do you get the attention of early adopters? Rowe answers: "One of the key findings we learnt is that in order to catch this audience truly off-guard requires a new, unorthodox form of thinking. Early adopters are fluent in anticipating and interpreting a brand’s message, so ignoring these attempted communications is second-nature to them. The question then is how to cut through the noise and make our audience listen and engage with a brand in a way that is meaningful? Our survey found 76% of early adopters find the idea of brands going in unexpected directions or setting up unexpected collaborations appealing.“

So it seems the best way to appeal to this audience is to be brave. Rowe says: “The open-mindedness of this demographic should be a source of comfort for brands concerned about being bold and different. Taking drastic changes is not the risk it is often perceived to be; 61% of our audience feel favourable to a brand that is strong and adaptable enough to cope with the rapidly shifting consumer market. This attitude is driven by the diverse lifestyles and multiple identities our audience attach to themselves. With lives that can change at a moment’s notice the services and products our audience want need to be equally as flexible.”

Rowe concludes: “Brands need to challenge the norm, be fluid and adapt. They need to know that to trust in being bold will lead to more meaningful engagement with their audience.”

The mindset of early adopters

  • 77 per cent of early adopters believe big brands have an obligation to improve the world
  • 61 per cent prefer to spend on experiences over products
  • 76 per cent state brands going in unexpected directions is appealing
  • 83 per cent feel they value a product or service more if they put the work into receive it


Protein spoke to nearly 5,000 global early adopters, 51 per cent female. Their average age is 31 and they mainly live in the UK, US, Germany, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands. Most of them earn under $40,000 a year.

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