Many products were moderately successful. Few products were highly successful. How did they get such huge success? How could they attract people on such a scale? Why could some products not sell in high volumes?

Geoffrey Moore explains “Crossing the chasm” as the difference between products being moderately and hugely successful. It is nothing but making the transition from an early market dominated by Innovators, early adopters to Early Majority.

If your product doesn’t cross the chasm and reach the Early Majority Segment(mainstream market) – you are missing out a huge fortune.

For crossing the chasm, the company has to transform from “Sales-Driven Company” to “User-Driven Company – Geoffrey Moore

How to design to attract this “Early Majority” segment? Let us look at some essential factors for crossing the chasm.


Positioning is to create an impression of our brand or product in a consumer’s mind. We need to provide a reference. Generally, consumers will remember instantly one or two brands/products in any category. Example- Pepsi and Coke in Cola category, Redbull, and Monster in Energy Drink category.

As it is known that “Early Majority” will buy only from a category leader – Our brand has to be a leader in a category. We may have to spend huge money and time to become a category leader in existing market.

Solution – Create a new category. Find a Niche market. Focus on a particular need, work on it and dominate. Smaller the segment, the entire company can focus and easier to meet the needs, satisfy the desires and dominate the market. You are the leader in the new category. Once you dominate the niche market, you can move to larger markets.

Macintosh initially targetted Graphic Artists/Designers in Fortune 500 companies. These designers gave presentations to Marketing professionals/executives – Marketing and sales departments started using Macintosh for presentations to Outside vendors, Publishers, clients – and the idea spread. Macintosh started from a Niche – dominated the market quickly and spread quickly to other markets.

Documentum introduced Electronic Document Management System in 1993. To start with, the company targeted a niche – Regulatory affairs department in Fortune 500 pharmaceutical companies(Where the User pain is high – They need to file a minimum of 250,000 to 500,000 documents). The product’s usage spread from Regulatory department to Research department as both the departments had frequent interactions. The Document management system penetrated to manufacturing floor from research department – From manufacturing floor to plant construction & maintenance – from plant maintenance to external vendors/contractors and then to Regulated chemicals – to non-regulated chemicals & Oil refineries and then to Oil exploration & production – IT department – to properties – to Wallstreet -to swaps and derivative business.

For Crossing the Chasm, Choosing the Niche is essential. For choosing the Niche, rather than looking at a number of people, look at the magnitude of pain that could be solved.


There’s a difference between what a user says, what he means and what we hear.

As we had seen earlier that most of the decisions were taken by Consumer’s Sub-conscious mind, we need to use observational research, empathy to find their unarticulated rational/emotional needs, desires and wants.

Until Steve Jobs introduced iPhone in 2007, nobody knew they had a need for a smartphone.

3M, best-known scotch tape brand invented a new bonding agent. 3M concluded it as worthless as the bonding agent had poor stickiness compared to other bonding agents. One 3M research used the new bonding to create “post-its” that could be attached to a letter or a document with a note. He emailed the “post-its” to executive secretaries(Niche Market) of a president of each fortune 500 company and “Post-its” became a most profitable product for 3M.

Palm pilot picked a need and stuck to it – A phone book and a co-ordinating calender. Earlier PDAs were limited in essential functionality – No calendar, Manual phone books, No backup. Apple’s Newton missed those essential requirements. HP’s 95LX was bloated with so many features but had a minimum spec for phonebooks and calendar applications. No wonder those products failed.


Once you have designed the product, we need to launch. We need to communicate about the product without the necessity of showing the product to potential users. Design should make it

  • Easy to communicate and create awareness of the product
  • Easy to make customer feel that he needs the product
  • Easy to inspire users to come forward and seek more information
  • Easy to remove uncertainty about the product in user’s mind
  • Easy for one user to communicate about the product to another user without the physical presence of product – word of mouth, typing texts through social media.

Remember Steve Job’s first iPhone launch? – A widescreen iPod, Revolutionary mobile phone, A breakthrough internet communicator – An iPod, Mobile phone, an Internet communicator – He repeatedly stressed.

iPod – 1000 songs, Ultra-thin portable, 99 cents for one song, Longer battery life.

The product needs compelling details to communicate which make you the category leader. Three most important details. Does your product/service has it?

We need to communicate “How to” of the product. It could be “How to Use for certain primary functions”. Have you seen how Steve Jobs demonstrates usage of the product during launch? Users should be made aware of how to use the product in a simpler way – This is possible only when you design the product with less complexity. You could just explain without a device on “how to use the product”. If you could design like that – Hats off!


In the earlier phase, the product/service provided information about the product. This phase of design has to bring a favorable attitude about the products in user’s mind. Influence your consumers.

As we had known earlier that most of our decisions are taken by sub-conscious mind. Though rational mind analyses, it is the subconscious mind which takes the final decision. By focusing on emotions you could attract sub-conscious – Your messages at this stage has to satisfy both rational and subconscious mind requirements.

In 1997, Pampers, though it is a superior baby diaper with an ultimate benefit of “dryness”, was losing their market share to Huggies. After research, Pampers realized that Parent’s concern was Baby’s “Health and Development” than “dryness”.

Pampers changed their communication from ‘dryness’ to ‘Sound sleep for babies, Help baby sleep better, Good health’. They targeted emotional concerns of the mother and showed how they could help the well-being of baby and support in development. They came out with product categories – Swaddlers for infants, Cruisers for toddlers, pull-ups for toilet training.

Volkswagen is called “People’s car“. When they launched Beetle in America, they came out with a tagline “Everyone needs a Better Car” – Note the difference with “Everyone needs a Car”. Former quote is aspirational – Brand is saying that every user deserves a better engineered good quality german car. The tagline shows an emotional concern for the users.

The communication messages, valid benefits/value propositions of the product have to remove uncertainty in consumer’s mind. Did you see how Steve Jobs enacted certain user scenarios of the product’s usage on the Stage? We need to help user to imagine using the product in different future context to achieve a specific task or goal – How the user overcomes various challenges in those scenarios – How the product makes the user a Hero(Your product should never be the hero) – This could happen, when we design our product/service by considering all future scenarios.

Design the product with cues – The cues which a user can see in their natural environment – Whenever the user sees those cues, he could remember your product and buy the product soon.


Do not promise a better product, but promise a better life. Create a new meaning for user’s life.

Does your product meet the most important needs effectively? Does your product involve less risk? Easy and Intuitive to use? Does your product save time & effort better than what they have been doing earlier in meeting the needs? Does your product provide social identity and economic profitability? Does the product provide clear meaning?

The earlier personal computers were so complex and meant for hobbyists, gadget lovers, engineers, and scientists. Individuals who bought home computers didn’t have any software/hardware expertise. They had a tough time, got frustrated.

Ford Edsel –Ford motor company did not see the shift in the cultural movement of consumers – People were looking for smaller cars – exposure due to the launch of Beetle, Nash Rambler, Studebaker Lark. Consumers were also moving towards Cheaper models and fuel efficient cars- Ford missed this point completely and Edsel was a “fuel guzzler”. Tele-touch transmission demanded a new behavior and at the same time, it was conflicting with another habit. The transmission buttons were kept at the place of horn – People were accidentally shifting gears when the intention was to honk.

PDA market was struggling for many years till Palm Computing came with “Palm Pilot”. Palm Computing focused on Niche market of a management team of high-tech enterprises who spend 10% of their time in meetings and on travel. The target segment with a major pain point. This user segment needed the support of contact applications, calendar coordination in setting up meetings. As we are aware that early adopters like to try a new product when they could use some of their past experience – The high management team was exposed to high-tech PC applications – Any product which could use this experience would be easy to use for this market segment.

Products like Casio, Sharp wizard had manual phone book but did not have the calendar, Back-up of contacts. HP’s 95LX had a calendar, phone list – But they ran Dos, Lotus-1-2-3, and a word processor. They had a full keyboard, PCMCIA slots, RAM – Basically, they were making another PC – It cost a bomb to buy this product.(Economically not feasible). Apple’s Newton had minimum specifications for phone book and calendar applications(The most important need). The design was more of a brick and tough to fit in a pocket. Pen recognition software performed very poorly.

Palm pilot had comparatively better Phonebook and Calendar applications could be synchronised effectively with PC Softwares, had an intuitive interface, compatible with Mac and Windows OS, Fit inside a breast pocket – Convenient docking stations – easy to download/upload – restricted pen movement, but worked effectively as expected to do the essential work and affordable price point.


Is your product compatible with user’s existing attitudes, values, past experiences and cultural values? If you are designing a behavior changing product, then the product has to inculcate the new behavior gradually. So, any product designed without knowledge of their existing values, experiences, habits will not succeed.

IKEA is known for a low-cost household innovative furniture manufacturer in Europe and USA. But in China, IKEA’s cost was still considered premium and local competitors copied its designs. IKEA observed that Chinese consumers were fond of western products since it provides an aspirational value and social identity to the user. IKEA adopted an “Aspirational Brand” strategy and redesigned the furniture slightly to fit inside smaller sized apartments and reflect local culture retaining western influence. In Europe, they stores were located in suburbs, near highways, accessible by cars. In China, their stores were located near to public transport facilities like railway stations as most customers use public transportation.

STARBUCKS and CHINA – It appears risky to sell coffee to a country of traditional tea drinkers. Starbucks established a relationship with local partners who brought local expertise and insights into the tastes and preferences of local Chinese consumers. Starbucks did local extensive taste analysis to create unique blends and introduced beverages with popular local ingredients. In U.S cities, users can sit right next to a stranger in a community table without giving it a second thought. In China, people come in bigger groups – They would like to pull chairs from the neighboring table – creating an instant group seating arrangement. Starbucks interior was designed to meet the behavioral requirements of Chinese culture.

QWERTY Keyboard design has been in use in all electronic devices – It was one of the Non-User-Friendly design – The layout was designed to avoid jamming of those metal arms – The commonly used adjacent letters were kept apart intentionally – A pure mechanical engineering design, than user-centric design. Better keyboards have been designed along the way to replace QWERTY. A notable layout is ergonomically efficient Dvorak Simplified Keyboard by Dr.Dvorak, designed with “Humans” in mind and based on scientific principles(Time and Motion Study). The reason for Dvorak Keyboard’s failure is the inability to break the strong habit of QWERTY keyboard usage over the years.

If the product is too radical, the user may not adopt the product. The more compatible the product with existing behavior, better the adoption of the product. If you are designing a product that requires a change in behavior – start with activities which are compatible to the user and guide them to change.

Research by EMPATHY and Observational research will help in assessing the needs, attitudes, and behavior.


Refer the LinkedIn article


The product should be designed in such a way that it could be easy for a user to experiment part of it. Encourage the user to try out the product in partial basis. Did you visit Apple stores and tried out the products? Did you check what applications kept for you to try? Test drives, rental cars providing offers. Many software products provide a small and essential part of the software for users to use. If the experience is good, solves a pain point, they will start using and it will soon become a habit. The 30-day trial software aims these things.

Products that are available for trial are generally easily bought by the users. Many of our home appliances do not have this feature – Trialability provides an instant experience, which leaves a mark in mind. Trialability should focus more on providing an experience – a positive emotional feeling – to target the subconscious mind.


Can you let your product to be modified or customized by the user to adapt to his requirements, feelings? Quality control is a concern to let re-invention. But if you could design n such a way that part of your product could be customized, the product has a better chance in the market. Social media platforms allow us to change the background image, profile texts to make it more creative and a host of other customizations. Too many options are going to spoil the experience. Interiors of cars and accessory options. More than manufacturers providing options, if you let customers make their own options and implement in the product – the chances of success is high.

Post-its notes were successful for 3M because it allowed users to find their creative ways to use the product. Short Messaging Service(SMS) – Customers found new ways to use the service – Emoticons, shortened words and so on.

References – Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore, Diffusion of Innovations by Everett Rogers, Starbucks-wired magazine article by Liz Stinson, Playing to Win by AG Lafley, Habit by Neale Martin, The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen, Ford Edsel Wikipedia, Richard, What great brands do by Denise Lee, Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

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