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For years we have been taking pride in our reputation as early adopters of advanced technology. But is that really us?

Leaders of multinational giant corporations visit Israel and decide to use the as a testing ground for new products. Cellular companies were sure Israelis would leap on the most advanced technologies. Hi-tech company managers pitch their newest developments. We love our image in their eyes: it is flattering to be thought of as "early adopters." But is it true, or merely an empty stereotype?

A survey by Market Watch, which conducts market research and public opinion polls, found that most of the Israeli public ? 58% - are actually late adopters. They prefer others to try new products before trying them themselves.

The survey was conducted ahead of the TheMarker's In-novation convention, and respondents were asked about their attitude to new products.

Only one in five (22%) said they love to try new products as soon as they are released. Some 71% admitted that they do not.

Marketing vs. advertising

The survey's findings reveal the importance of word-of-mouth marketing. Even a well-planned, expensive, multimedia advertising campaign cannot compensate for the fact that most of the public prefers to hear about a product from a friend before bringing it home. This process looks quite simple - 22 percent of the public tries a new product and tells everyone else about it. If the product is good, 57 percent will want to try it too, and that, theoretically, is all a quality product needs. Not every recommendation, however, does the trick.

In his book, "Crossing the Chasm," Geoffrey Moore is adamant that when the product is a true innovation that will change the market, the recommendations of previous users will not necessarily induce the rest of the public to try it. Moore contends that the later testers - namely, most of the consumers - do not tend to listen to the recommendations of the early testers. This is because the early testers are not their type.

The early testers are perceived as more open or more technologically enthusiastic, so the products that they are willing to try are not necessarily suitable for the late adopters. The main problem facing marketers trying to introduce a new product is how to prompt as many late adopters as possible to try the latest innovation.

Taste testing stands of new food products at shopping centers, the distribution of samples and offers to try something for the first time free of charge help a new product to penetrate the market better than any television campaign that costs millions of dollars. Still, there is no downplaying the contribution of such campaigns to brand-building, which will serve the manufacturer in the long term if his product does not disappear from the shelves.

More money, more adventurous

Who exactly are the early adopters?

TheMarker's survey found that women have a greater tendency to be early adopters than men (24 percent compared to 19 percent). Surprisingly, young consumers do not tend to be early adopters. Quite the opposite: The early adopters include more persons in the 35-44 age group (25 percent) and seniors, aged 65 and older (28 percent). It turns out that respondents who identified themselves as secular were less adventurous than those who categorized themselves as religious - 27 percent of religious respondents were early adopters, compared to about 20 percent among the other groups.

Another misconception revealed by the survey is that people with more academic education tend to be early adopters. The highest percentage of early adopters had high school education (23 percent) or post-secondary non-academic education (35 percent), compared to just 17 percent who had attended university.

One hypothesis that proved to be correct is that the more money a person earns, the more likely he is to try a new product. The survey showed that people with above-average monthly incomes are more likely to be early adopters than those with below-average incomes.

The demographic profiling of the late adopters revealed the following: More are men than women (60 percent compared to 55 percent), more are in the 18-24 and 46-55 age groups (both 63 percent), more are secular or traditional (58-61 percent) as opposed to religious or ultra-Orthodox (50-51 percent).

And where should marketers not bother wasting any time or energy?

The groups that generally do not like to try new products are the 45-54 age group, the ultra-Orthodox sector, and academics, with 21 percent showing resistance to new products, while only 13-14 percent of those with less education shared this view.