Sales, Marketing and Communication

How to use the product life cycle for maximizing the success of a product

For many of us, marketing is as much an art form as it is science. If you need input concerning the scientific part of marketing, then the product life cycle is a good place to start. It shows, generally, when chances are highest for a specific initiative to give the best results.

What is the product life cycle?

As the name implies, the method describes your product’s life cycle. Just as you pass through childhood, youth, adulthood and old age, your product goes through something similar. In the model the four stages of the product are called:

  • Introduction

  • Growth

  • Maturation

  • Decline

 The four phases are characterized by:

Introduction phase:

  • The product is introduced on the market

  • High marketing effort required to create knowledge of the product

  • Few customers, low sales

  • Expenses are higher than income

Growth phase:

  • Product sales rise rapidly

  • More competitors intervene

  • High marketing effort, primarily aimed at differentiating the product from the products of the emerging competition

  • Spreading the message to more potential customers

Maturation phase:

  • The product is established on the market

  • Lower production costs and lower prices

  • The product can remain in this phase for a long time

  • Development of new products to complement or replace the mature product

Decline phase:

  • Diminishing profits

  • The market is saturated, market shares only relocate slightly

  • Investments are minimized

  • The product is shut down when it's no longer profitable

4 strategies for prolonging the maturation phase

As shown above the maturation phase is most profitable phase. This is where companies attempt to earn back what has been spent on development and marketing of the product. Therefore, it is only logical that companies are interested in prolonging the maturation phase.

Mind Tools describes four strategies that are typically used for prolonging the maturation phase.

  1. Convince your customers to use the product more frequently

  2. Expand or update the characteristics of the product

  3. Use discount- or sales campaigns to attract customers who use another brand

  4. Create an advertising campaign with samples in order to attract customers who doesn't use this type of product.

Problems with the product life cycle theory

Even though the theory has gained wide acceptance in the world of marketing, it still has critics who claim that there are so many exceptions and so few rules that it makes no sense. Some of the points of critique are:

  • There's no permanent interval for a product to remain in each phase. Each product is different and moves through the four phases at different times.

  • There's no evidence that all products must die eventually. Some products move from maturation back to growth due to an improvement or redesign. Some believe that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when we say that a product must reach the decline phase.

  • Theories focus on individual products instead of taking larger brands into account.

  • The theory does not take a products redesign or reinvention into account.