No Marshmallows, Just Term Papers
Vol. 32, No. 7. July 1986
Printed in U.S.A.
LEAD USERS: A SOURCE OF NOVEL PRODUCT
ERIC VON HIPPEL
Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139
Accurate marketing research depends on accurate user judgments regarding their needs.
However, for very novel products or in product categories characterized by rapid change—
such as "high technology" products—most potential users will not have the real-world
experience needed to problem solve and provide accurate data to inquiring market researchers.
In this paper I explore the problem and propose a solution: Marketing research analyses
which focus on what I term the "lead users" of a product or process.
Lead users are users whose present strong needs will become general in a marketplace
months or years in the future. Since lead users arp familiar with conditioris which lie in the
future for most others, they can serve as a need-forecasting laboratory for marketing research.
Moreover, since lead users often attempt to fill the need they experience, they can provide new
product concept and design data as well.
In this paper I explore how lead users can be systematically identified, and how lead user
perceptions and preferences can be incorporated into industrial and consumer marketing
research analyses of emerging needs for new products, processes and services.
(MARKETING—NEW PRODUCTS; RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT; INNOVATION MANAGEMENT)
Accurate understanding of user need has been shown near-essential to the development of commercially successful new products (Rothwell et al. 1974, Achilladelis et al.
1971). Unfortunately, current market research analyses are typically not reliable in the
instance of very novel products or in product categories characterized by rapid change,
such as "high technology" products. In this paper I explore the problem and propose a
solution: marketing research...
Join now to view this essay and thousands of others on PaperCamp.com. It's free Join Now!