July 24, 2011

Confusing “late majority” brands with “dead-end” brands

Last month, Facebook actually lost some users. 6 million to be exact.

Of course, some sounded the trumpets proclaiming that Facebook has had a good run. But I don’t quite buy that, especially considering Facebook still has a network of near 700 million users.

This got me thinking more broadly how some people confuse the “mass market” point of a brand as a signal that its decline will soon follow. Not necessarily at all.

Where does this idea come from? Many of us marketers are familiar enough with the Rogers’ innovation adoption curve that goes from Innovators to Early Adopters to Early Majority to Late Majority to Laggards.

Facebook is in what I’d call the Late Majority stage in the U.S. Most people here have a Facebook account. I have one. You have one. At least one of our parents probably has one, if not both Mom and Dad. It has hit a mass market level unlike any other social media tool. Yet, while it is hitting its saturation point in our country, there are many other countries that are beginning to or have yet to experience Facebook, strange as that may sound.

If we’re to look closer at Facebook the brand, we can see that as a Late Majority brand, it shares some good company. McDonald’s has hit a mass market level. So has Home Depot. And Coca-Cola.

Should we be saying that those brands are going away? Of course not.

The real challenge for a Late Majority brand is no longer gaining acceptance on a mass level, but how it will sustain itself among numerous upstarts that are sure to come. In the case of Facebook’s brand, I believe until we see anything that comes even close as a competitor to Facebook, we should see what Mark Zuckerberg’s next act looks like with anticipation. It’s a real moment of truth in his brand’s evolution.

Where do you find yourself on the adoption curve? An innovator who has the next best thing that people haven’t heard about? Or a little farther along?