Product Life-cycle

I was asked during an interview at South Africa’s biggest mobile Telecom companies years back about the #Product#Life-Cycle. The interview had been going extremely well at that point and one of the line managers asked whether I had an understanding of “the product life-cycle” and I blanked out. To this day thinking back I kick myself because I studied the product life-cycle and I was a product manager and ate, slept and dreamt this stuff. So on that topic, I am going to put it down for the world so that you hopefully don’t blank out when you get asked this question, ever.

The Product Life-Cycle is usually depicted as a bell-curve (shown below), the product life-cycle explains the introduction through to eventual decline of a product or service. If you think about it, most products, services, and even companies run this course, at the bleeding edge you have your early adopters picking up the product at the launch or introduction for a premium. Those are your Launch day and pre-launch eager beaver type customers, during the initial growth phase marketing, sustainability and mass market appeal is essential where you need to keep the momentum. This is where you begin building the scope and scale out into the channel. With the scope and scale increase prices decline which allows for deeper discounting, or higher profit taking. The downside to this is that you also find competitors coming into the market and launching similar, like or replica products. At the apex or top of the curve, you see aggressive deep discounting, seasonal sales and specials to squeeze every last bit out of the product before another model is launched with some more features or the market moves to something else.

There are exceptions to the above rule like Coca Cola, Pepsi, SAB Miller (also now Forster’s), most tobacco companies and Nestle (old school chocolate makers) where the same “trusted” brands run for numerous years even decades without apparent decline. These types of products follow a more company lifecycle as shown below. What they do is re-brand the same product, re-launch in new packaging to revitalise but the product itself, Coke, Pepsi and Beer are the same.

You see this type of life-cycle (above) with companies after they undergo interventions (in the decline phase), as I mentioned previously, which leads to an extension or renewal. Your EPIC brands also have this type of life-cycle where renewed advertising, innovation or reinvention sparks interest in the product and sales pick up. There are exceptions to the renewal phase where, as an example, SAB/Miller with 150 different brands has an interesting statistic when they actively advertise one of their brands which competes against another internal brand sales actually decreases for the advertised brand.

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