Why Do Some Innovations Go Viral and Others Don’t? New Study Explains

by Markus Giesler

Why Do Some Innovations Go Viral and Others Don’t? New Study ExplainsWhy did Allergan’s wrinkle killer Botox Cosmetic become a commercial success and Procter & Gamble’s fat substitute Olestra fail? A new study forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing details why some innovations go viral and others don’t.

In a multi-year ethnographic investigation, Professor Markus Giesler from the Schulich School of Business (York University) in Toronto traced the rise of Botox Cosmetic since its FDA approval in 2002: “We analyzed eight years worth of interview data with Botox users, advertising materials, and Botox portrayals in the media to understand how the drug became part of our culture.”

Giesler found that the meanings of new medical drugs, food products, nutritional supplements, techniques or other radical innovations evolve in course of emotional contestations between brand images promoted by the innovator and doppelgänger brand images – disparaging stories and meanings about a brand that are circulated in popular culture. For instance, Botox’s market success was frequently undermined by negative stories about deadly poison, frozen faces, mutilation, and addiction. Through changes in its brand delivery, however, Botox became more accepted.

Doppelgänger brand images have also been an issue for a wide variety of innovators such as Apple (“Antennagate”), Monsanto (“Terminator Seeds”), Pfizer (“Viagra addiction”), or Toyota (“toxic Prius”).

“Seemingly isolated events such as an unflattering photo of Nicole Kidman on the red carpet or the lampooning of a new technology by a television comedian can slow or even stop its diffusion, rendering years of expensive research and development obsolete,” Professor Giesler said. “Successful market creation requires innovators to frequently redefine the meanings of the technology and its users. The study illustrates how companies can gradually reshape a society in relation to their innovation’s properties.”

View Slideshare Presentation:

“How Doppelgänger Brand Images Influence the Market Creation Process: Longitudinal Insights from the Rise of Botox Cosmetic” can be requested from the author Markus Giesler at www.markusgiesler.com

Research for this article provided by Researcher Sarah Fischer.

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Why Do Some Innovations Go Viral and Others Don’t? New Study ExplainsMarkus Giesler is an Associate Professor of Marketing at the Schulich School of Business and a Chair of Strategic Marketing at Witten/Herdecke University. His research has been published in the Journal of Marketing and the Journal of Consumer Research and covered by global media outlets, including CNN, New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, TIME Magazine, and Wired Magazine.

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