Relevance of product life cycle

You are required to critically examine the relevance of the product life cycle for modern marketers. This analysis must incorporate an application of the product life cycle to a product category, brand or organization of your choice.

In Marking this piece of work the following weightings apply:

Review of the literature on the product life cycle with discussion of the development of theories of the product cycle to product life cycle and an analysis of the assumptions within the product life cycle (50%)

Application of the literature to an organization of your choice and comment on the application of the product life cycle to product category, brand or organization (50%)

In writing the assignment you should consider this weighting scheme. You may find it helpful to structure your essay to reflect this scheme.

The Product Life Cycle

Introduction

The product life cycle is based upon the periodic table of elements; it’s the marketing equivalent. (Smallwood, n.d.) According to Smallwood, “it provides a framework for grouping products into families for easier predictions of reactions to various stimuli. With chemicals-it is a question of oxidation temperature and melting point; with products -it is marketing channel acceptance and advertising budgets. Just as like chemicals react in similar ways, so do like products. The product life cycle helps to group these products into homogeneous families.”(Smallwood, n.d.)

The implementation of the product life cycle is the key element for successful product management, whether it is the development of new products or the discarding of old non-profitable products. It is extremely important for the user of this cycle to recognize the limitations that may be provided; therefore, allowing them to make adjustments where needed. This cycle uses qualitative terms and not quantitative terms. (Smallwood, n.d.) “The product life cycle helps an organization to understand and contextualize the potential growth prospects for the SBU and the resource implications.” (U of L, 2006)

Stages of the Product Life Cycle

There are four different stages that the product life cycle contains and each product should move through all four stages. These stages are:

The Introduction Stage.

This is where the product is introduced to the market. Usually the marketing angle is focused and defines a clear identity for the product and encourages a high level of awareness.

The Growth Stage.

This stage shows an increase and sales and the competitive raises their efforts in order to “match” the product. Some consumers are beginning to make repeat purchases of the product.

Maturity Stage.

At this stage, the competition begins to leave the market and a decrease in sales will be able to be noticed. Basically, all that is left is the loyal customers of the product.

Decline Stage.

Sales decline for several different reasons. The economy could be bad, new and improved products may be released, and more which in the end, affects the sales revenue.

The above graph is an example of the product life cycle time vs. profit line.

Pricing of the Product

As the product progress through the different levels of the PLC, the price of the product will change as well. The price will vary on the popularity and the demand of the product. For example, at the introduction phase, depending on the type of product, it is usually based at a cheaper price. As the demand goes up during the growth phase, the demand increases and the price may rise as well; however, once the demand is increased, supplies are purchased on a different level (large quantity purchasing is usually cheaper for the manufacturer); therefore, with cost per unit decreased, the company actually can make a large profit on the product. At the maturity stage, the price is usually unsatisfactory because of the competition; therefore, no one’s profit on the product is as good as it was in the prior stages. (Smallwood, 2010)

A Planning Tool

The product life cycle is a powerful planning tool; however, for it to be at its best one has to know how to use it through interpretation of the data that it provides and also through understanding the current market and the consumer’s behaviors through each stage of the PLC and they have to understand why these changes occur. (U of L, 2006)

“The PLC highlights the fact that conditions will change and that the product in

question might well die unless careful planning for changes in marketing strategy is undertaken. For example, the PLC concept encourages the marketing planner to develop product improvements, or even totally new products, to protect the organization against an early demise of its market offering.” (U of L, 2006)

Introduction of Product into the PLC

It is argued that every product goes through the product lifecycle. This is true; however, every product may not go through every stage of the product life cycle. We will take a look at the personal computer market. Apple, of course, was the first to introduce their home computer, so they released their product in the introduction stage. IBM followed suit, only when they released their product it happened to be during the growth stage of the product. Another computer company called NSR introduced their product at the maturity stage. Furthermore, the product/brand that has been introduced into the market will have their own particular life cycle. Careful studying of the PLC is a necessity, because what may be considered the growth stage could possibly only be a boost in sales for a short period of time. They will have to take the information that the PLC provides based upon their own brand and make their decisions from there. Each company will more than likely follow a different path even though the PLC for the product that is being introduced, in this example a personal computer, may show the same results for each company. (U of L, 2006)

Analysis of the Apple I Pod

The introduction stage of the Apple I Pod began in 2001 when the product was released to the public. It enabled consumers to download music, hundreds and even thousands of songs, and to carry it with them at all times. The product was revolutionary. They have a sleek design and are very user friendly. Produced and marketed by Apple, Inc, it caught the attention of many consumers around the world. The “buzz” was created and growth of the product began to take off.

During the growth stage, the demand and sales of the product continued to increase as many consumers from around the globe are now aware of the product. As sales continue to increase, the competition also increases. Several different companies have now developed and released a similar competing product. Such companies include both Dell and Sony (as the most recognizable brands of the competition).

There have been several different Ipods released to the public. Some are small and others are larger. Apple is giving the consumers a variety to choose from. Each product released also incorporated a different price tag. Usually, the more features that the music player has, the more expensive that it is; however, competition for the product is actually releasing lower priced devices, giving Apple a “run for their money”; however, has developed the Ipod on a platform. This means that every time that the sales on the Ipod begin to decline or the popularity of the product begins to decline, they develop a new and improved version which gets all of the “hype” restarted and once again the demand for the product begins to increase.

At the maturity stage of the originally released Ipod, the demand for the product began to decline. Considering that Apple sold over 140 million Ipods, the market was saturated. Apple had to do something in order to keep the demand up. (Muller, 2008)

Before the decline stage approached, Apple, because the Ipod was built on a platform, decided to release a newer version of the Ipod that included different features that would be appealing to the consumers. Since then, several other Ipods have been released, including the Ipod touch and the Ipod shuffle. The demand for these products sent the Ipod back into the growth stage of the product life cycle.

I believe that the company used the information that the PLC provided to them in order to stay on top in the field. Since the Ipod is the number one reason why Apple showed an increase in sales and revenue over the past few years, it is important that they keep the “hype” going if the company wants to stay in business. While they also offer products like the Mac and now the Ipad, these products are not actually supporting the company in the way that the Ipod does.

Although Apple continues to make a “circle” during the Ipods life cycle, it is because the life cycle of any product can be extended. The first version of the Ipod began to show a decrease in sales; it could have been because the market was saturated or because of a decline in the economy. But, with strategic planning and use the PLC as a tool, Apple was able to understand that the life of their “backbone” for the company was coming to an end and that they needed to increase or expand the life cycle of the product in order for the company to continue to see an increase in revenue. “If the marketer realizes that no corrective action is viable, the focus of attention will shift away from the product to how the elimination of the product will impact upon the organization.” (U of L, 2006) They did this by developing the newer versions of the product and creating, once again, the hype around the product, encouraging consumers to purchase their “latest technological” product.

One would think that once the new products were released that they would actually be in the first stage or the introduction stage of the PLC; however, this is not true because the product is not actually new, it’s just a better and improved version of the former product. And, because of this, the new released versions of the Ipod started out in the growth stage instead of the introduction stage of the PLC. Once Apple released the new versions of the Ipod, they actually extended the PLC life of the Ipod.

As long as Apple can keep developing newer, appealing versions of the Ipod, they will continue to make the circle and the final stage of the PLC will not be met; however, if they run out of ideas for developing new and improved versions, the Ipod will then reach the decline stage and the product will die out.

Apple execs, during the maturity stage, used the perfect strategy of product modification in order to stimulate sales. With product modification, new features, new styles, and overall improvement of the original Ipod were developed.

There are actually two other strategies that they could have used. To begin with they could have tried the market modification strategy where they would attract non users or try to reach a larger target market; but, like previously mentioned, they saturated the market by selling over 140 million devices (this does not count what the competitors sold once they introduced the competing devices). So, obviously, this strategy was out of the question. (Encyclopedia of Health Care Management, 2004)

The other strategy that executives at Apple could have used is the marketing mix modification strategy. With this strategy they could have tried “changing” things up in order to increase sales. They could have lowered the price, offered sales promotions, increased distributions to a larger area, increased advertising, and more; however, this strategy would not have worked either. Apple already saturated the market and their product was basically available to anyone because of the online Apple store. The efforts from this strategy would have just been a waste of time. (Encyclopedia of Health Care Management, 2004)

Once Apple realizes that removal of the Ipod is necessary, because it is the final stage of the PLC, there are several things that they can take a look at.

“withdrawing the product immediately. No further production and no sell off of inventory,

a slow withdrawal where production halts but the inventory is pushed through the distribution chain,

a phased withdrawal where the elimination of the product is milked to maximize returns. This often involves changing the marketing mix strategy to reduce costs whilst seeking to increase returns from a core target market,

to sell the product off to a competing company,

drop the product from the standard range and reintroduce the product as a special product.” (U of L, 2006)

One thing to take a look at is that there have been products in the past that have experienced their complete PLC and were removed from the market; however, these products have been reintroduced to the public and are now experiencing a second go around of the PLC. For example, toys such as My Little Pony and Cabbage Patch Dolls were highly popular in the mid 1980s and in the past few years they were reintroduced to the public where they are now going through their second round of their Product Life Cycle.

Conclusion

The Product Life Cycle (PLC) is a great marketing tool that should be taken advantage of when placing a product on the market for sale. Through the use of this tool, marketers can better understand how their product is doing and what needs to be done in order to keep the product “alive” and maximize of the sales and revenue that the product brings into the company.

A marketer, to be able to use the PLC to its fullest potential, must understand a variety of different aspects that may affect the PLC and these aspects include things such as the consumer’s behavior and the market/economy at that current point in time, among other things. If they can do this correctly, they will be able to maximize the life of their product through a variety of different ways, which have been listed within this paper. They can either extend the life of the products PLC by introducing new and improved versions, they can change their marketing techniques, and more; however, once the PLC shows that the product is in the final stage, which is the decline stage, major decision will have to be made. Should the product be taken off the market? If so, should it be done immediately or slowly in order to maximize profits? Plus, there are many other questions that should be asked within this stage.

Apple provides a perfect example when one considers the Ipod product. The product was introduced to the market, where it did not make money for the company because of initial development costs; but, once the product reached the growth stage and the demand of the product continued to rise, Apple began to make a large profit from the sales to the point that the Ipod product was considered to be the “backbone” of the company and kept Apple from having to close its doors and file bankruptcy. Realizing how important this product was to their business, once the market was saturated with this technology and the sales of the product began to decrease, Apple knew that they had to do something and the only logical choice, as presented in this paper, was that they redevelop the product to include new and exciting features and technology that would once again put the Ipod into the growth stage of the PLC and extend the life cycle of the product through utilizing the product modification strategy that was explained within this paper.

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