The product life cycle has actually been described, analyzed, and annotated so often in the literary works of marketing the it has become a “given” in the mental of countless executives. This write-up challenges it—not just particular aspects or interpretations that the life bike notion, but its very concept and existence. Moreover, the authors complete that the <…>

The product life cycle has actually been described, analyzed, and annotated so often in the literature of marketing that it has come to be a “given” in the minds of plenty of executives. This short article challenges it—not just certain aspects or interpretations of the life cycle notion, but its really concept and also existence. Moreover, the authors contend that the <…>


The product life cycle has actually been described, analyzed, and annotated so often in the literature of marketing that it has come to be a “given” in the minds of countless executives. This article challenges it—not just specific aspects or interpretations that the life cycle notion, however its an extremely concept and existence. Moreover, the authors compete that the <…>


The product life cycle has actually been described, analyzed, and annotated so frequently in the literature of marketing that it has come to be a “given” in the mental of many executives. This short article challenges it—not just certain aspects or interpretations the the life bicycle notion, however its an extremely concept and existence. Moreover, the authors contend that the notion has led plenty of companies to make i have lot of money mistakes and to pass up promising opportunities. Management would it is in far far better off, castle believe, if the employed an reliable information system for every product, deciding in a pragmatic way how and whether to continue promoting it. They define some facets of a system that will provide managers the data lock need.

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Not lengthy ago, a top manufacturer was promoting a brand of floor wax. ~ a steady duration of growth, the sales of the product had reached a plateau. Marketing research argued that rise in spot tv advertising, donate by a change in copy, would assist the brand to regain its momentum. Feeling that the funds can be much better spent in launching a brand-new product, administration vetoed the proposal.

But the brand-new product failure to move off the shelf regardless of heavy marketing support. In ~ the same time, the old brand, through its props pulled out from under it, went into a sales decrease from which it never recovered. The firm had two losers ~ above its hands.

This suffer is no atypical among the nation’s corporations. Many strongly think that brands follow a life cycle and also are topic to inevitable death after a few years of promotion. Like so plenty of fascinating yet untested theories in economics, the product life cycle concept (PLC) has proved to it is in remarkably durable, and has been expounded eloquently in plenty of publications. In fact, its use in skilled discussions appears to include luster and also believability to the insistent claim that marketing is close to coming to be a science.

The PLC concept, as arisen by that is proponents, is fairly simple. Like humans or animals, every little thing in the marketplace is presumed to it is in mortal. A brand is born, grow lustily, attains maturity, and then enters declining years, ~ which it is quiet buried. Exhibit I shows profit-volume relationship that are supposed to prevail in a typical PLC.


Exhibit I generalized PLC pattern for sales and also profits

Even a cursory evaluation shows flaws in this picture. In the biological world the length of each stage in the cycle is solved in fairly an exact terms; moreover, one phase follows one more in an immutable and also irreversible sequence. Yet neither the these conditions is properties of the marketing world. The size of various stages tends to vary from product come product. Part items move nearly directly from arrival to maturity and also have hardly any type of growth stage. Other products surge to suddenly heights of fashion, hesitation momentarily at an uncomfortable peak, and then easily drop off into complete oblivion. Their introductory and also maturity stages space barely perceptible.

What is more, the is not inexplicable for assets to gain “second lives” or also “reincarnation.” many thanks to excellent promotion, countless brands have actually gone native the maturity phase not to decline and death but to a fresh duration of fast growth. Later in this short article we shall research a few examples of the unlifelike and noncyclical habits of products.

Despite the absence of correspondence between the marketing and also the biological worlds, PLC advocates continue to remain dogmatic and proclaim that their ide has wide applications in different areas of planning and policy formulation. Exhibition II provides a bird’s-eye view of the 4 stages that the PLC and also the type of marketing action that, according to proponents, is perfect for every stage. While there is no unanimity amongst PLC proponents on details that this pattern, the an easy relationships have actually been described repeatedly by authorities.1


Exhibit II just how PLC supporters view the ramifications of the cycle because that marketing action

Most writers existing the PLC ide in qualitative terms, in the kind of idealization without any type of empirical backing. Also, castle fail to attract a clear distinction between product class (e.g., cigarettes), product kind (e.g., filter cigarettes), and also brand (e.g., Winston). But, for our purposes, this does not matter. Us shall watch that that is not possible to validate the design at any kind of of this levels of aggregation.

Myths of class and form

Many product classes have actually enjoyed and will probably continue to reap a long and also prosperous maturity stage—far more than the person life span of 3 score years and ten. Great examples space Scotch whisky, Italian vermouth, and also French perfumes. Your life span can it is in measured, no in decades, however in centuries. Virtually as long lasting are such various other product classes together automobiles, radios, mouthwashes, soft drinks, sneeze remedies, and also face creams. In fact, in the absence of technical breakthroughs, countless product classes appear to be almost impervious to common life cycle pressures, detailed they accomplish some simple need, be it transportation, entertainment, health, nourishment, or the desire to be attractive.

As because that product form, it often tends to exhibit less stability 보다 does product class. Form is what most PLC advocates have in mind once they speak of a generalized life bicycle pattern because that a “product.” also here the model is not subject to an exact formulation. Theoretically, that presumes the visibility of part rules denote the activity of the product indigenous one stage to another. However, once one studies actual case histories, it i do not care clear the no together rules have the right to be objectively developed.

For evidence of this conclusion, consider Exhibit III, i m sorry gives examples of life cycles of product creates in four varied product classes: cigarettes, make-up bases, toilet tissues, and also cereals. In bespeak to present a realistic picture, the sales (whether in dollars or units) have been readjusted to a typical base in the irradiate of varying yearly consumer expenditures on nondurable goods. In this way, the becomes possible to remove transforms that carry out not reflect life bike patterns, e.g., populace growth, inflationary pressures, and cyclical economic fluctuation.


Exhibit III Life cycle patterns of product develops in four product class Sources: because that 1, proclaiming Age; for 2 and 4, Supermarketing and also Food Topics; because that 3, J. Walter Thompson research. Note: disagreement sales numbers are in hundreds of dollars. Both unit and also dollar sales are adjusted to a common base of consumer nondurable products expenditures.

Unpredictable sports

Although in most cases it is not feasible to go ago far sufficient to obtain a complete birth-to-death portrayal, details facts are evident from exhibition III:

with the exception of nonfilter cigarettes, year-to-year variations make it challenging to predict when the following stage will appear, just how long it will last, and also to what level the sales will certainly reach. One cannot frequently judge through accuracy in which phase of the bicycle the product kind is. The four significant phases perform not divide themselves into clear-cut compartments. At details points, a product may appear to have attained maturity once actually it has only reached a short-lived plateau in the growth stage before its next huge upsurge.

One the the many thorough attempts come validate the PLC ide for product classes and also product forms was brought out a couple of years ago by the Marketing science Institute.2 The authors examined over 100 product category in the food, health, and also personal-care fields, and measured the number of observations the did not follow the intended sequence of introduction, growth, maturity, and also decline. They compared these yes, really inconsistent monitorings with simulated sequences of same length produced with the help of arbitrarily numbers. The hypothesis developed was that the PLC ide had part “raison d’être” only if the was capable of explaining sales behavior far better than a chance design could.

The outcome of this test was discouraging. Just 17% of the observed sequences in product classes and 20% that the sequences in product forms were substantially different from chance (at the confidence level of 99 times out of 100). The authors reached the adhering to conclusion:

“After perfect the initial check of the life bike expressed as verifiable model of sales behavior, we should register strong reservations around its basic validity, even declared in that weakest, most flexible form. In our tests that the model against real sales data, it has actually not performed uniformly well against objective criter over a wide selection of frequently purchased consumer products, nor has it perform equally well at different levels the product sales aggregation… ours results indicate strongly the life cycle concept, when used without mindful formulation and also testing as an explicit model, is more likely to it is in misleading than useful.”3

No Life Cycles because that Brands

When it pertains to brands, the PLC model has even less validity. Countless potentially advantageous offerings dice in the introduce stage since of poor product breakthrough or unwise sector planning, or both. The much-expected ebullient growth phase never arrives. Even when a brand survives the introductory stage, the version in most situations cannot be used as a planning or a predictive tool.

Exhibit IV mirrors the life cycle fads of specific brands in the product forms earlier discussed. The proof for the PLC principle is discouraging. With the exception of nonfilter cigarettes, the brands often tend to have different sales patterns, and the product-form curves litter no light on what the sales would be in the future. All that can be said is the if a product kind (e.g., nonfilter cigarettes) is truly in a final declining stage, it is very challenging for a brand (e.g., Chesterfield) to reverse the trend. However, with respect come the first three step of the PLC, no certain conclusions have the right to be drawn around brand behavior from the product-form curve.


Exhibit IV Life cycle trends of brands contrasted with product develops Source: for cigarettes, heralding Age; because that toilet tissues, J. Walter Thompson research. Note: all sales figures are readjusted to a common base of consumer nondurable items expenditures.

Some PLC advocates have tried to rescue their theory by presenting different types of curve to fit different situations. Because that instance, one authority, in a study of 258 ethical drug brands, argues six different PLC curves4; an additional develops no less than nine variants: marketing specialties, fashion cycle, high-learning products, low-learning products, pyramided cycles, instant busts, abortive introductions, right fads, and fads with significant residual markets.5

Such initiatives at curve installation leave much to it is in desired. Native the standpoint of helpful marketing, they space sterile exercises in taxonomy. It would be much better to admit that the totality PLC principle has small value in the world of brands. Clearly, the PLC is a dependent change which is identified by marketing actions; that is not an independent variable to which companies need to adapt their marketing programs. Marketing management itself can transform the shape and duration of a brand’s life cycle.

Of course, a company may not be able to extend the maturity phase indefinitely. When a brand overcome “over the hill” in sales, no marketing tactics are reliable anymore. Together a drop might be due to transforms in consumer tastes and values, or come the reality that users have actually shifted their choice to a new and improved competitive product. In these instances, euthanasia has to be quiet performed so the the company’s resources resources can be offered profitably in various other ventures.

Blunders due to PLC blinders

Unfortunately, in numerous instances a brand is discontinued, not since of irreversible alters in customer values or tastes, but because management, top top the basis of the PLC theory, believes the brand has entered a dying stage. In effect, a self-fulfilling prophecy results.

Suppose a brand is agree to consumers however has a couple of bad years due to the fact that of other factors—for instance, bad advertising, delisting by a major chain, or entrance of a “me-too” competitive product donate by substantial sampling. Rather of thinking in regards to corrective measures, management starts to feel that its brand has entered a declining stage. It therefore withdraws accumulation from the promotion spending plan to finance R&D on new items. The following year the brand does also worse, scare increases, and new products are hastily launched without proper testing. No surprisingly, most of the brand-new products fail. Therefore management has talked itself into a decrease by relying exclusively on the PLC concept.

The annals of service are full of instances of once strong and prosperous brands that have died—if not with a bang, at least with a whimper—because top monitoring wore PLC blinders. A an excellent example is the case of Ipana. This toothpaste was marketed by a leading packaged-goods agency until 1968, when it was abandoned in donate of new brands. In early on 1969, 2 Minnesota businessmen choose up the Ipana name, concocted a brand-new formula, yet left the package unchanged. Through hardly any type of promotion, the supposedly petrified demand for Ipana turned into $250,000 the sales in the very first seven month of operation. In 1973, a survey performed by the Target group Index confirmed that, despite poor distribution, the toothpaste was still being supplied by 1,520,000 adults. Considering the minimal resources that the owners, the brand would certainly have been in an also stronger position had it been retained by its original parent company and to be given proper marketing support.

Planning there is no PLC

In a slightly various vein, there space several situations of suppliers that have ignored the PLC concept and achieved an excellent success through imaginative marketing strategies. The standard example the the 1940s and 1950s is DuPont’s nylon. This product, whose original provides were primarily military (parachutes, rope, and also so on), would have progressively faded into oblivion had the agency believed the the declining sales curve signaled death. Instead, monitoring boldly decided to enter the volatile customer textile market. Women were an initial induced to switch from silk come nylon stockings. The sector was later increased by convincing adolescents and subteens to start wearing hosiery. Sales grew even further once the firm introduced tinted and patterned hosiery, thereby converting hosiery from a neutral accessory to a main element that fashion.

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Here are various other brands whose productive lives have actually been stretched many decades by sound planning.

Listerine Antiseptic has actually succeeded in retaining its lion’s share of the mouthwash market in spite of heavy vain pressures and the introduction of strongly supported brand-new brands. Marlboro is fast edging as much as top place in the highly segmented filter-cigarette sector by focusing on the same basic theme—only developing different sport of it. Seven-up, whose development had been impeded since of its photo strictly together a mixer, now has much more room to increase as a an outcome of taking the “Uncola” position against Coke and also Pepsi.

This list might be broadened considerably. The adhering to are ten other leading brand that have actually been about for a long time yet are still full of vitality because of intelligent marketing: Anacin analgesic, Budweiser beer, Colgate toothpaste, Dristan cold remedy, Geritol vitamin-mineral supplement, Jell-ogelatin, Kleenex face tissue, Maxwell house coffee, Planter’s peanuts, and Tide detergent.

The prominence of a ideal marketing effort is further portrayed in exhibition V. Here are compare of competitor brands in miscellaneous product forms. In 1961, the brand in each pairing had approximately the same share of usage. However, through 1973 among each two was maybe to move up substantially, while the various other took a turning back turn. Had actually the PLC pressures played one all-important role during this 12-year span, both brands in each pair would have gone downhill. This exhibit demonstrates that the wise use the advertising and also other marketing devices can inspect the erosion that a consumer franchise. If a brand is widely available at a competitive price, and has certain benefits which are systematic to a huge segment of the population, climate well-conceived and properly command marketing communications will create the right response at the checkout counter. This is true nevertheless of whether the brand has remained in existence for 2 years or twenty.