I'm no trendsetter. Some of the clothes in my closet pre-date my husband of 18 years. I always have the oldest iPhone on the market. And I still listen to the Bee Gees.
But every once in a while I stumble upon something great. And when I do, I become somewhat of a hoarder.
Take for instance, Jimmy Fallon. When he first graced the airwaves with “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” in 2009, I may have been the only one watching. Like clockwork, I nursed my baby every night at midnight. Just me, Jimmy and my newborn. In fact, I watched the first 500 episodes religiously. Didn’t miss one.
But as soon as other people started to take notice of Jimmy and his quirky bits like “Thank You Notes,” “Lick it for Ten” and “Wheel of Carpet Samples,” I got a little jealous. Suddenly everyone was a fan – even my mother. Not cool. Eventually enough people took notice that Jimmy (we were on a first name basis even if he didn’t know it) inherited “The Tonight Show” from Jay Leno. Forget it, I said to myself. If Jimmy and I couldn't be exclusive, then I couldn't be a fan.
In public relations, we have a communication model we call Diffusion Theory. The theory works off the premise that humans are creatures of habit. We don’t like change. So Diffusion Theory helps us identify people based on their inclination to adopt new ideas and products. The categories range from Innovators, who help create change, to Laggards, who will never be open to change. Somewhere in the middle lie our Early Adopters, Early Majority and Majority.
Most of the time, I fall somewhere in this middle. Not trendy enough to be an Innovator. But not close-minded enough to be a Laggard. In the case of Jimmy Fallon, I was an Early Adopter.
As communicators we rely on Early Adopters to do much of our bidding for us. Through word of mouth, they spread their enthusiasm for a new product or idea to those not adventurous enough to try it first. We know that the more awareness our Early Adopters create, the more interested the Majority will become. The more interested the Majority become, the better chance they have of trying this new thing for themselves and recommending it others. And so on and so forth.
So we NEED these early adopters. But, what if like me, those Early Adopters want to keep that “new thing” to themselves? Kind of disrupts the continuum the theory espouses. Which begs the question, are all Early Adopters this obsessed with and fiercely protective of their new “thing?” Or was this simply a product of me being an Early Adopter in a Majority mindset?
This also led me to wonder if we should really expect Early Adopters to stay engaged with that new thing once it catches on. Or like I found myself with Jimmy, do they turn their backs on it once it’s become mainstream? Perhaps it’s healthy for those Early Adopters to always be on the prowl for the next best thing.
Truth be told, there have been other Jimmy Fallons. Keith Urban and I go WAY back (pre Nicole Kidman) and country crooner Brett Eldredge and I used to be tight (until he used the Chicago Cubs World Series win as a career boost). At the end of the day, I think I’m happy just being in the Majority. This business of being an Early Adopter is exhausting – and emotionally draining if I’m being quite honest. Walking away from someone so talented who once brought me so much joy (simply because others have discovered my dirty little secret) is heartbreaking. Especially since it’s so one-sided. So I think I’ll just keep listening to the Bee Gees. They never disappoint, I always know what I’m going to get and I don’t have to fight for their affection. I. Heart. Barry. Gibb.
Tammy is the owner of Mother of Pearls, a full-service, boutique public relations agency in Carmel, IN, that specializes in media relations, media training and crisis communications.