Non-customers as initiators of radical innovation

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6 Scopus citations


Customers who initiate innovation is a topic frequently discussed in the marketing literature. However, the literature largely ignores non-customers – individuals or firms not using products in the category – as potential initiators of innovation in general and of radical innovation in particular. We argue that non-customers have high knowledge of their own needs, but their knowledge of technology is insufficient to self-generate an innovation. By approaching a potential supplier with a high knowledge of technology but an insufficient knowledge of the need, a unique dyad is created, characterized by a bilateral knowledge gap that stimulates increased learning and co-creation of a potentially radical innovation. We use an historical approach to examine the technological and social antecedents and consequences of three innovations initiated by non-customers: air-conditioning, the pill, and the jeep. We contend that non-customers can initiate innovations that may potentially change industries, create new markets, and have long-term social and economic effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalIndustrial Marketing Management
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • Historical approach
  • Learning
  • Non-customers
  • Radical innovation
  • Suppliers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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