Innovation Diffusion, Social Change, and Implications to International Marketers.

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Federico Currò Msc International Marketing ID. 12722219

Innovation diffusion, social change, and implications to international marketers.

The history of social evolution demonstrates how the diffusion of innovation has often resulted in significant social change. However, the way in which innovation affects society is complex and controversial. This essay aims to analyze the phenomenon in the contemporary era, applying the analysis to an international marketing context. The issue is discussed first in general terms, with the support of literature from different research areas. Then, to support the theory, I analyze the example of the spread of broadband Internet in households. Finally, on the basis of the foregoing, I suggest some possible implications for international marketers who want to introduce an innovation in a given society. Rogers (1969) defines social change as “the process by which alteration occurs in the structure and function of a social system”. The Oxford English Dictionary highlights that this alteration is “especially due to ideological or technological factors”. Hence, according to these definitions, when a technology spread within a society, a process of social change occurs. In modern societies, in order for a technology to spread, it is often necessary that someone can market it profitably as a product. Therefore, also products may be drivers of social change. It may looks like a terminological matter, but it is not. In fact, while products are often composed and generated by technology, they are more than merely technology. The AMA dictionary defines products as “bundles of attributes (features, functions, benefits, and uses) capable of exchange or use, which usually are a mix of tangible and intangible forms”. Then, a good technology may not be accepted and adopted, if it is not embodied in a well-marketed product (as the famous case of Sony Betamax vs JVC VHS demonstrates). Thus, marketing plays a key role in the adoption and diffusion processes, which are the basic dynamic core of social change (Zaltman 1971). Social systems are dynamic. They are sets of interdependent relationships, customs and institutions. Then, a change in a part may affect the whole system, sometimes in unexpected ways. Products have the power to induce change in social systems, because they can satisfy existing needs or create new ones, they can affect attitudes, behavior, relationships and so forth. Glaring examples are the cases of automobiles and mobile phones, which have disrupted the way people move and communicate, thereby causing substantial changes in society, such as new needs (e.g road safety, availability...), new social issues (e.g. drunk driving, cell phone use by children...), need for new infrastructures (e.g roads, car parks, signal repeaters...), and new markets (e.g. car insurances, motorway restaurants, cell phone cases...) just to name a few. It is worthwhile to stress as a product, to be disruptive enough to cause social change, should not necessarily be new-to-the-world. Indeed, often the products that reach a mass distribution are the result of successive adaptations of existing products and for some reason were unable to obtain the goals set (West et al, 2010). However, the relationship between product diffusion and social change is neither linear nor clearly causal, and it is even more complex when analyzed in an international context. It is not linear, because different products are accepted and adopted (or rejected) differently, depending on several factors. It is not clearly causal, because just as product adoption can drive the change, at the same time changes can create new needs and market for new products: Since adoption is the behavioral adaptation through which the product is integrated in the life of the individual (Salomon 1998), and behavior is influenced by the social context, hence adoption is a social behavior. Furthermore several...
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