Under the right circumstances, industry initiatives involving “coopetition” among competitors can reduce customers’ reluctance to adopt an innovation.
It took more than a half a century for the dishwasher, which was first introduced in 1893, to succeed as a mainstream product. No one sets out to develop an innovation that consumers are slow to adopt, and yet many ultimately successful innovations like the dishwasher or the microwave oven languish for years in the gap between early adopters and the mainstream market.1 Other examples of slow-diffusing innovations include automatic teller machines (which were first introduced in the United States and the United Kingdom in the late 1960s), online banking and alternative fuel vehicles.
Slow takeoff times mean delayed returns on investment or, in the worst case, negative payback if the product is pulled from the market before sales have a chance to take off. Slow takeoff times have been attributed to high introductory prices,2 uncompetitive products that are low quality or insufficiently innovative3 or failure to develop niche markets.4 Another reason is consumer resistance to an innovation,5 which may arise because the innovation conflicts with consumers” ingrained belief structures, requires acceptance of unfamiliar routines or necessitates abandoning deep-rooted traditions. Slow-diffusing innovations that require consumers to change established behaviors are called resistant innovations.6
How can managers create marketing programs that reduce takeoff time for resistant innovations? This article suggests marketing strategies appropriate for such innovations. Our conclusions stem from a multiphase research project conducted to examine why a particular innovation – screw cap wine closures – has achieved greater market acceptance in Australia and New Zealand than in the United States. (See “About the Research.”) Based on findings from this international case study, we elaborate on the role of vertical and horizontal cooperation as marketing strategies for resistant innovations and identify the reasons and conditions under which each strategy can successfully operate.