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Edited by Victoria Wells and Gordon Foxall
Chapter 8: New Developments in the Diffusion of Innovations
Ronald E. Goldsmith 8.1 INTRODUCTION The theory of innovation diffusion has many different aspects and has been applied in a variety of contexts. Although its origins lie in anthropology, the practical implications of diffusion theory quickly became apparent to researchers in many fields, leading to vibrant research streams in the diffusion of new educational practices, the diffusion of new farming practices (rural sociology, the study of social life in non-metropolitan areas), the diffusion of medical advances by medical sociologists, international development, marketing, and others. The field of marketing and consumer behavior made diffusion theory a central topic from its earliest days. The first books to introduce and define the domain of consumer behavior as an academic study included the topics of innovation adoption and innovation diffusion (Engel et al. 1968; Zaltman 1965). This makes perfect sense. After all, the decision to adopt or reject a new product is an important application of models of consumer decision theory. Moreover, the growth imperative faced by all companies entails the active creation of new products, the success of which shapes their futures. That is: ‘innovation, the process of bringing new products and services to market, is one of the most important issues in business research today’ (Hauser et al. 2006, p. 687). New product failure rates, however, are notoriously high, and companies are eager to learn what they can about consumer reaction to new products so they can improve their new product introduction success rate (McDonald and Alpert 2007). Researchers in marketing and...
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