Purpose – To assist marketing management in the identification and targeting of consumer innovators for novel products by selectively reviewing and integrating three separate streams of research, namely, trait theory, utility-awareness theory and contemporary cognitive theory. Design/methodology/approach – A range of traditional and contemporary research concerned with the identification of consumer innovators is selectively reviewed and critiqued to enhance marketing management's ability to identify and target the consumer innovator segment. This research, which is addressed under three main sections: personal characteristics, utility-awareness and cognitive structures, is then integrated to provide management with a more comprehensive approach by which to identify and target consumer innovators. Particular emphasis is placed on the contribution of recent cognitive theories. Findings – The trait dependent approaches in particular, are found to be of limited usefulness in that they identify consumer innovators only retrospectively after initial adoption, as opposed to operating in a predictive manner. It is argued that an approach based upon consumer utility-awareness, and the more cognitively orientated analogical learning and embedded knowledge structure approaches can provide management with increased control over the process of new product adoption within a target population. Originality/value – This paper provides management with a new insight into the identification of the consumer innovator by integrating three existing, but somewhat disparate theoretical approaches, and suggests amore comprehensive model for this task.