What is Critical Mass?

What is Critical Mass? B2B marketing

What is Critical Mass?

Critical mass refers to the juncture at which the diffusion rate of a product or service jumps all at once.

Usually, when a product or service is introduced to the market, it is accepted by a segment of the consumer population called innovators and gradually spreads to the conservative consumer population via a segment called early adopters.

Etymology of Critical Mass

Originally, the term “critical mass” was derived from the physical chemistry term “critical mass.

In 1962, the American sociologist Everett Rogers proposed it in his book “Diffusion of Innovation” as a turning point in product diffusion, and it came to be used in the field of marketing as well.

Five consumer classifications

In his book, Rogers proposed five consumer classifications based on innovator theory. He classified consumers into the following five categories when a new product is introduced to the market.

*The figures in parentheses indicate the percentage of the market.

Innovators (2.5%)

A group that is quick to purchase new products. Value newness and innovation in their purchasing behavior.

Early adopters (13.5%)

A group that is sensitive to products that are likely to become popular in the future and will buy what they judge to be good. They have the power to transmit information and are highly influential. Also known as “influencers.

Early Majority (34%)

A segment of the population that buys things that are already popular. Heavily influenced by early adopters, they purchase products relatively quickly for fear of missing out on trends. 

Late Majority (34%) 

A demographic that is reluctant to purchase new products. They will consider purchasing a product only after confirming that half of the people around them have done so.

Lagarde (16%) 

The most conservative segment of the population. They are not interested in new products and are also unwilling to accept them.

Law of critical mass

Based on these consumer classifications, the law of critical mass states that when a new product is popularized by the 16% of innovators and early adopters combined, the rate of popularization will explode.

Innovators (2.5%) + Early adopters (13.5%) = 16

→ Explosive increase in penetration rate

Let’s look at some specific examples.

Example of Critical Mass

Televisions, refrigerators, washing machines, and personal computers are said to have spread quickly when the penetration rate exceeded 16%.

Referring to the Cabinet Office’s Survey of Consumption Trends (Consumer Attitudes Index) *, the PC penetration rate among households with two or more members reached 17.3% in 1996, up from 15.6% the previous year, and then rose steadily until it surpassed 50% five years later in 2001.

It seems that the success or failure of the hit will depend on whether the market penetration rate exceeds 16% and can be considered as one of the target values.

*Reference: Consumer Confidence Survey, Cabinet Office

When launching a blog site, it is often recommended to “first update 100 posts”.

This is not because, like critical mass, in blogging, crossing the 100-article milestone will dramatically increase PV… (unfortunately).

The main reason for the 100-article recommendation is that “posting content regularly and operating for a long time makes the site more highly regarded by search sites. Of course, the number of articles is not the only important criterion, but also the uniqueness of the content and whether it provides the best information to users.

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The writer of this article.
Miyuki Saito

Manager, Global Solutions Department

Over 15 years of experience as a marketing manager, product manager, promotion, etc. for various global B2B companies.

Has executed many projects to support foreign companies wishing to start sales activities in Japan to expand their business overseas.

Graduated from the University of California, Berkeley.

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B2B marketingMarketing Terms
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