The National Business Reviewhas an article on how “fear that immunizations were part of an American plot to make Nigerian Muslims sterile and spread HIV has led to a large outbreak of polio among children”. Nigeria now accounts for 77 percent of the world’s polio cases. The challenges faced by Nigerian health educators are, in many ways, similar to those faced by marketers encouraging anyone to try or use a new product, idea, or practice.

In Nigeria, immunization efforts failed because some parents more readily accepted rumours of American espionage than the teachings of health educators. According to the UN, local religious readers had alleged that Western countries were using polio vaccines to spread HIV, cancer, and infertility.* In refusing to immunize their children against polio, some Nigerian parents favoured the teachings of religious leaders. As upstanding members of the community, religious leaders drew from long-term, ongoing face-to-face contact with followers, as well as the credibility of religious teachings. As a result, these Nigerian change agents were able to topple immunization programs. Religious leaders had the right mix of innovation, communication channels, timing, and social systems.

And those four points pave the way to adoption of any idea, practice or object. Everett M. Rogers‘s 1962 Diffusion of Innovationsexplains how people and societies adopt new innovations — innovation, communication channel, timing, and social system all play roles. Drawing on the work of Gabriel Tarde and Bryce Ryan and Neal Gross, Rogers claimed that adopters of any new innovation would fall into the categories of innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. For each person, their willingness and ability to take up an innovation would depend on their awareness, interest, evaluation, trial, and adoption.

All this theory might seem, well, theoretical. But modern companies, from start-ups to the Fortune 500, consider technology adoption (or diffusion of innovation) when they build, market and sell their products. In fact, Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasmdraws from Rogers’ findings and maps out strategies for spurring adoption of everything from software to telecommunication equipment. So, if you’re having trouble getting people to buy your products, think back to the challenges faced by Nigerian health educators. Have you got the right mix of marketing tools?

(c) 2004 by Andrea Coutu. Vancouver Marketing Consultant. All rights reserved.

*Link has expired. Originally referred to