Planning for a natural death or murder?

(Posted by Tim Bearup and Anthony Gunn)

Product Life Cycle (PLC) is a common metaphor for the stages that a product goes through in the marketplace: introduction, market growth, maturity and decline.

Companies are advised to plan for each stage from the outset so that they can align their level of investment in the product and determine when to release new products to ensure they are not caught throwing good money after bad ‘flogging a dead horse’.

Reading between the lines of some recent promotional material I noticed on TV, it seems that Channel Nine is taking this model seriously with the impending launch of their new home reno show: “Renovation Rumble”.

“The Block” has been experiencing a significant decline in viewers, and it would appear this new show is intended to be its replacement (however I suspect Channel 9 won’t admit to this until they know for sure that its new show is successful).

This decision to divert marketing resources away from The Block as its primary home reno show and into this new product has not been made before milking a vast array of brand extensions including: The Block, the Block 2, The Block 2010, 2011, 2012, All Stars, Sky High, Fans Vs Favs, Glasshouse and finally Triple Threat.

renorumble-playWhen examining the plans for the show, one cannot help but appreciate the stroke of genius in the construction of their new product (excuse the pun). Renovation Rumble will be hosted by The Block’s Scott Cam, and will feature previous contestants from The Block as well as previous contestants (now out of contract) from Channel 7’s House Rules.  Thus, rather than starting from scratch, the launch of the ‘new’ product will capitalize on their own previous investments along with the investments of their Channel 7 competitors.

Therefore, this product starts from the outset with high levels of consumer familiarity and emotional connection with both their existing viewers and with those of their competitors – thus enabling them to penetrate the home reno/reality TV watching market segment even more deeply.

However, there are some critics of the Product Life Cycle (PLC) model who believe that in many cases the demise of a product is not inevitable, but it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when a company believes it to be a natural path and invests/promotes the product accordingly.

oldspice - playEven if you aren’t fussed with this post – YOU GOTTA WATCH THIS (too funny)

Perhaps a stark case example of why the PLC should not always be followed to the letter is that of the Old Spice aftershave. In anyone’s language this product was a ‘has-been’ that had been relegated to old and passing generations. When I was a child I can remember my mum telling my dad to stop using it because it was for old people even back then!  If there was ever an example of a product that should be killed off and replaced according to the PLC model – this would surely be it.

But not so… Proctor and Gamble purchased the brand and through some very clever and highly invested marketing – they successfully resurrected Old Spice to a new generation without so much as tweak to the scent, the name or the logo (but the brand has been turned on its head!).

So it makes me wonder, is the Product Life Cycle theory actually valid, or is it just a self-fulfilling prophecy that starves a product into an otherwise avoidable death?



6 thoughts on “Planning for a natural death or murder?

  1. It is an interesting point that you raise, but not one that I think can be applied as a blanket statement across all product categories. This is mainly because there are numerous reasons why products will enter the decline stage. Changing consumer tastes and technologic advances account for the majority of products entering decline, and the scope to influence these two are markedly different.
    For example, a product such as the Sony Walkman entered the decline phase as it became technologically obsolete with the emergence of MP3 players and eventually the iPod. Besides replacing this product with a reengineered new product, there was little Sony could do to arrest this decline.
    Old Spice, on the other hand, was the victim of changing consumer tastes which their brand positioning failed to address. However, by reinventing the brand they were able to breathe new life into the product.
    Conceptually, I would suggest that the product life cycle model still holds, but like most models they can be overly simplistic to explain all patterns of behaviour.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Valid point about self fulfilling prophecy – I guess it goes to show the value of the marketing dollar & as mentioned previously, every generation is a potential new market that has not had the same product/brand exposure as the previous generation. So is the key a clever new marketing campaign that engages with the new generation, rather than a real “new” product? Interesting how everythiing seems to come back to consumer behaviour!

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  3. Great example of The Block used here. I think the decline in viewership with this show was caused by the very fact that they brought out so many different variants of the show which you mentioned in this post. I always thought that The Block was on for 9-10 months of the year and there was no real break from it so the fans of the show could not miss the show and simply got sick of it. So in a way, I feel that Channel Nine made The Block proceed through the product life cycle quicker than it may have if a different strategy was used. To answer your question on the PLC, I think the PLC is valid. I think this because for a lot of products, they do seem to go through the stages presented in the PLC, however I feel it is the marketers job to be able to prolong the life of the product rather than let it ‘die’ and if the product cant be saved, its then the marketers job to milk as many profits as it can from the dying product.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great blog. I defiantly agree that the PLC is valid and death is unavoidable although it can be delayed through marketing strategies. The PLC is the same as any other life cycle where you have product birth/launch followed by growth through to maturity followed by decline and death, which is inevitable. The only real unknown in the process is the length between the stages, which can be dragged out with some very clever marketing that tweak or reinvent the product as in the case of “The Block”, which you have highlighted. Therefore is Channel 9’s new offering of “Renovation Rubble” a tweak halting decline or a reincarnation of “The Block” and therefore a brand new life cycle?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good blog post. I’m of the mindset that the PLC is an antiquated view of a products life and its various stages of growth and decline. Given the vast improvement in technology, advertising mediums and availability of “big data” the reinvention of products or at least diversification is much more prevalent in today’s society. However, this is obviously curbed by the more fickle consumer who has so much more option available to them – I guess with opportunity comes consequences, and in the case of PLC’s perhaps it is time we started re-evaluating this view of a products rise and fall.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting post which certainly highlights, in part, channel 7’s & 9’s ‘joint’ attempts to maintain viewer interest (and the associated advertising revenue!) in the reality TV ‘home reno’ concept … a great example of a horse that has been well and truly flogged to death in recent years – watch out MasterChef & MKR!

    More to the point, PLC, as I see it, remains very much an important concept for companies and their marketing boffins … but must be supported by active (and continuous) monitoring of consumer behaviour.

    Constantly understanding how particular products are travelling in the market is the important bit here given that (as mentioned in some of the other posts) the ‘global’ marketplace is ever-changing and expectations/forecasts re PLC, as you would expect, are continually impacted.


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