Gadgets: Are They Only for the Young?

Have you ever known someone who always seemed to need the absolute newest and most up-to-date gadget? Almost everyone has. Maybe it was a toy or a video game, or some other piece of technology. The thing that set this person apart was that they had a short attention span. Even if their previous phone worked just fine, as soon as another came out he was buying that one instead. Always on to the next gadget.

In business school during one of the long list of marketing courses we had to take, we discussed the different types of buyers. Evidently it’s assumed that each market has some segments of buying population that have things in common. A reasonable assumption I guess. We were taught that this particular group was called “Early Adopters.” They were generally said to be brave, very liberal, independent and had a high appetite for risk. Many times they were entrepreneurs or in a finance business of some sort.

But what happens to these so-called “Early Adopters” when they begin to mature? Just for discussion’s sake lets say past the age of 40. Do they still love their gadgets the same? Are they still looking for the newest gadget every chance they get? Or do they just become attached to the ones they had before that still offer some functional purpose? These are questions that marketers should know the answer to, especially if you’re in the business of selling or promoting gadgets.

Since I don’t have a lot of scientific data handy and am not sure if much really exists, I would have to lean on my own experience to draw conclusions here. Of course I am not necessarily a representative sample of the whole section of population that are maturing Early Adopters but it’s valuable insight none-the-less. Early on in my career I worked at IBM, and in a research lab. There we had a steady stream of the newest technologies and it sure made me excited to come to work. Can you imagine a job that could never be boring? That was it. And by definition even outside of my career I think I would say I was an “Early Adopter.”

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Then around forty years old, my values began to change. That’s hardly unusual. But what is relevant to this discussion was the place gadgets assumed in my mindset. I still loved new technology and still do today. But I would not break the bank to get the latest thing, or wait in line for two days for a product launch, or sit all day and reload a website hoping for a beta key for the latest game. So now instead of wasting two months pay on something that will be half the price in a month, I wait a month until I get that more reasonable price. Instead of waiting in line for product launches, I can wait until they hit the retailers. Instead of dying to get a beta key, I can wait until the initial feeding frenzy is over and get in late beta or even pre-release.

So if this can provide you any insight into the market segment we can call “maturing Early Adopters” it’s that they still love their gadgets. They still love technology and innovation. But they just might be a little more patient than in the past.