The terms ‘brand evangelist’ and ‘early adopter’ are often interchanged and evangelism is often confused with affiliate marketing. With our launch approaching and the quest for early adopters about to commence, we thought we’d write an article clarifying the different types of interactions that startups and brands first encounter.
Early Adopters: are people who start using a product, service, or technology as soon as it becomes available. The term comes from Everett Rogers’ theory called the ‘Diffusion of Innovations’ and follows a life cycle as seen in the diagram below:
Innovators: Contrary to popular belief, it is not the early adopters who are first according to Rogers, it is the innovators. He described innovators as young, well-off, high-class, and very social individuals who are willing to take a risk on a new product that has not yet proven itself. Early adopters are second in the adoption life cycle and exhibit more opinion leadership and discretion than innovators.
The life cycle is then followed by the early majority, late majority, and laggards (the least likely people to encounter when launching a new product or service).
Brand Evangelists: Is a term popularized by Guy Kawasaki with Apple products. These are the people who will sing praises for your brand and convince others to try or convert to your product or service. Brand evangelists do this because of a genuine belief in the product or service and are not paid for their praises. The main differences between early adopters and evangelists is that while early adopters may be the first to try your product, they are not necessarily going to become fans of your product or spread positive word-of-mouth like a brand evangelist does.
Affiliate Marketers: Are part of a reward based marketing system that provides financial incentives to affiliates to refer/convert customers for a product or service. The key difference between a brand evangelist and an affiliate marketer is that a brand evangelist’s praise is not purchased.
Innovators= First to find your product or service and use it
Early Adopters= First for critical feedback/ word-of-Mouth
Brand Evangelists= Positive customer relationships that are grown by fostering trust and faith in your brand/product. This can happen quickly or slowly.
Affiliates= Purchased word-of-mouth.
It is likely that early adopters are more thought about than innovators because they form a larger, more opinionated, and more influential segment of the market that leads over the early and late majority hump. It is the early adopters that will bring you closer to the tipping point in building critical mass.
Marketing to early adopters rather than brand evangelists is better for start-ups, for as a new fledgling company there are often little to no brand evangelists rooting for you (We’re lucky enough to have some brand evangelists. Thank You!). Early adopters are more likely to offer valuable opinions and feedback that can help you develop a stronger brand and product. For big companies, such as Apple, fostering the relationship and exclusivity of their products with Brand Evangelists has definitely been a cornerstone to their success.
Affiliate marketing can help draw people in, but may not be a sustainable method as it is expensive and all traction gained may be contingent on spending. Affiliate marketing may not be best for brand new products and start-ups for it may prevent them from obtaining valuable feedback, performing reiterations, and finding a sustainable way to scale.
Hope this cleared things up!