Home > Technology, Uncategorized > Failure to “Cross the Chasm” Leads To Shelf Potatoes

Failure to “Cross the Chasm” Leads To Shelf Potatoes

Literature about crossing the chasm in technology is filled with reasons products should have been re-engineered, re-thought, or simply never attempted.

But this literature rarely mentions communication. Too bad. Because in my experience, communication may be the single biggest reason for failing to make the jump.

Take DirecTV. I had the good fortune to do some strategic work early in DirecTV’s lifecycle. Their initial marketing was all about technology. Digital picture quality and 250 channels dominated the discussion.

Our work focused on later consumers – not the earliest adopters. And what we found surprised DirecTV. Because we found that these later adopters didn’t care in the least about the values DirecTV was using to sell their product.

This truth frustrated some of the marketing managers. (One demanded the opportunity to personally present the product in focus groups because she figured we just weren’t presenting it right. We don’t usually work that way, but it was good she presented. Because it made even clearer that the problem wasn’t style but content.)

DirecTV was wise enough to learn from what we found. They realized they weren’t showing enough product value for their next consumers to care to buy.

Their solution, the one that kept DirecTV from Shelf Potato-dom, was a combination of communication and packaging.

First, they leveraged their technology, but repackaged it into something sports enthusiasts around the nation couldn’t get anywhere else: every football game from their favorite team.

Then, they re-built their communication to make this a primary value. (Of course, I’m leaving unspoken the fact that at the same time rural customers loved DirecTV because it was so much better than a satellite dish. But the rural market was never their primary goal.)

Take care as you consider this case: the early adopter values that DirecTV espoused melted deep into the background. And the values that kept them from being a shelf potato were entirely unmentioned in their early marketing.

Crossing the chasm is rarely a matter of tweaking a few words. It requires digging much deeper to find significant value to deliver to later consumers.

And maybe that’s one of the biggest differences between consumers on either side of the chasm. Early adopters can be easily satisfied by the technology. But later adopters need value.

So if you have a shelf potato, look closely to find the value you can deliver that will be meaningful to your larger group of consumers.

Copyright 2010 – Doug Garnett

  1. September 8, 2011 at 9:05 am

    I think you’ve touched on a principle that’s important to any growing business, not just a technology business. What excites early adopters may not be what the typically more cautious second wave finds compelling. Early adopters tend to be people who can see the vision; the second wave tends to need to be convinced, so you have to articulate different messages and, as you say, “value propositions”.

    As always, Doug, you’ve put your finger on an important point!


  1. July 23, 2010 at 2:12 pm

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