This is a metaphor about barriers. As with real icebergs, a lot of resistance to a new product or service lies hidden below the surface.
Visible, rational barriers. These are the barriers that are above the waterline – the tip of the iceberg. They are easy to articulate and are heard when people say things like ‘It’s too expensive’ or ‘It’s too complicated’, or ‘I’m happy with what I’ve got.’ They’re not lies, but never the whole story.
Social barriers. These barriers are immediately below the surface. None of us like to acknowledge them, because we like to think our decision making is our own. But in reality, the idea that no one we know is using or buying this thing is a major barrier.
Identity barriers. Right at the bottom of the iceberg is always personal identity. ‘I am not this kind of person’ is quite the barrier to overcome.
Unless a business understands all the barriers, they’ll risk spending a lot of money attacking the visible ones, and not getting to the core of the issue.