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Extending Lead-User Theory: Antecedents and Consequences of Consumers' Lead Userness


  • *The authors are grateful to Michael Biach, Markus Murtinger, Stefan Oberhauser, and Tom Pfneissl for their valuable support throughout this project. We also appreciate the helpful comments on earlier versions of this article provided by Nikolaus Franke and Karim Lakhani and thank the editor as well as the two anonymous reviewers for their important suggestions for improvement. Finally, we would like to thank the many field experts and community webmasters who provided valuable assistance. Naturally, the authors alone are responsible for any remaining errors. The project was generously funded by the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration and the Wiener Wissenschafts–, Forschungs–, und Technologiefonds (

Address correspondence to: Martin Schreier, Bocconi University, Via Sarfatti 25, 20136 Milan (Italy). Tel.:+390258363694. Fax:+390258363790. E-mail:


Lead users are found to come up with commercially attractive user innovations and have been shown to be a highly promising source of innovation for new product development tasks. According to lead-user theory, these users are defined as being ahead of an important market trend and experiencing high benefits from innovating. The present article extends lead-user theory by exploring the antecedents and consequences of consumers' lead userness in the course of three studies on extreme sports communities. Regarding antecedents, it uncovers that field-related variables (consumer knowledge and use experience) as well as field-independent personality variables (locus of control and innovativeness) help explain an individual's lead userness. These variables might therefore be used as a proxy to identify the rare species of lead users. With regard to consequences, it uncovers that lead users demonstrate innovative behavior not only by creating new product ideas but also by adopting new commercial products more heavily and faster than ordinary users. This highlights the idea that lead users might not only be valuable to idea-generation processes for radically new concepts; instead, they might also be relevant to more general issues in the marketing of new products.

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