Theory on Product Success in 2023

How do products make it into the mainstream?


How do you get a new product out into the world? How does it get enough attention and sales to become widely adopted?

While searching for a framework around product success, I’ve been thinking recently about some ideas coming from Geoffrey A. Moore and Robert Cialdini. All the credit goes to them, as the point of this article is to merely highlight some of those ideas.

The first thing to realize is that traditional marketing — TV ads, radio ads, billboards — don’t really do the job anymore. Is there a framework we can use for today?

When you think of people loving your product, it’s helpful to realize that there are five different categories of the population:

  • Innovators: They just want to try whatever is new, no matter what, and they love discovering bugs. They benefit simply by being first to know about the product.
  • Early adopters: They are very open to new things, and love the idea of a revolution but aren’t actively seeking it out. There needs to be some benefit to them to try it out.
  • Early majority: They know most things are just hype, are pretty realistic, and paradoxically want to see a lot of people on board before they themselves join.
  • Late majority: Product needs to be quite established before they’re willing to join the party, they go with the herd eventually.
  • Laggards: Anything new is basically poison. Basically, they won’t give in until literally everyone is using it.

This is important because the goal is to eventually have people in all five of these categories adopting your product. Adoption happens in the category order shown above and it’s sort of like starting a fire. The innovators are the kindle of the fire, the early adopters are the small twigs, and so on.

You can imagine an uphill mountain climb where the top of the mountain is massage product success but in between each of the five people categories, there is a hazardous “chasm” or crack to cross in order to appeal to the next category.

The below graphic represents this as a percentage of the population. The empty spaces represent the four…