What is the Product Life Cycle?

The Product Life Cycle describes the Popularity of a Product from its first launch to its end.

Popularity? Yes.

  • No matter if you are interested in Sales, Benefits… All those factors depend on how Popular a product is.

 

There are multiple factors that affect these Life Cycles and, therefore, they can present very different forms.

Here, we analyze which are the most common Life Cycles you can expect.

  • We have investigated some of the most “popular” products, their life cycles and why they evolved that way.

But, first of all, we should mention the 4 stages that all Product Life cycles experience:

4 Stages of Product Life Cycle

Do you remember what they tough you at school when you were 5?

  • We born.
  • We grow up.
  • We procreate.
  • We get old.
  • We die.

Well… The 4 Stages of a Product are exactly the same, except in the “procreation” stage.

 

Product Life Cycle - 4 Stages

4 Stages of Product Life Cycle.

 

This is the traditional Life Cycle we have all studied in the books.

 

But… How can we measure the Popularity of a Product?

Easy: We use Google Trends.

 

Let’s see a product that perfectly exemplifies these 4 stages:

Product Life Cycle example

 

In case you don’t know, MySpace was one of the first social networking Sites.

 

Years went by, and it simply disappeared (due to a terrible management).

  • Moreover, other new, and better option appeared: Facebook.

 

Let’s analyze the Popularity of MySpace with Google Trends:

Google Trends results: Interest in “Myspace”.

 

As you can see in the image above, its Life Cycle evolved exactly as you would expect, according to the theory.

  • It is very easy to identify its Introduction, Growth, Maturity and Decline stages.

The question is the next:

  • Do all Product Life Cycles evolve in this way?
  • Is this a normal average Life Cycle?

 

The answer is: No.

  • In fact, it has been difficult for us to find this traditional-shape example.

As we mentioned before, Product Life Cycles behave in very different ways.

The Key is to identify what makes them to evolve one way or another.

  • That way, you could forecast how a product will perform, in advance.

And that is what we have done.

We have identified 3 Main parameters that determine How a Product Life Cycle will evolve.

  • Then, we have established different Types of Life Cycles, depending on these parameters.

 

Types of Product Life Cycles

The 3 most important parameters when analyzing Product Life Cycles are:

  • Product: If it is a New or an Old Product.
  • Concept: If it is a New or an Old Concept.
  • Easy to Copy: If it it is Easy to Copy or Not.

 

Product Life Cycle 3-parameters Matrix proposed by Consuunt.

 

As you can appreciate in the Image above, we have established 6 main Life Cycles (we’ll add 2 more).

  • Of course, there are an infinite amount of parameters that may affect a Product Life Cycle.
    • We have tried to identify those that don’t depend on unpredictable external factors.
      • Economical crisis.
      • New competitors.
      • Legal issues.
      • etc.

 

Why haven’t we contemplated an Old Product Old Concept scenario?

  • It is axiomatic that, when someone puts something on the Market, whatever it is, it will have something new (even if it is only the color).

 

But what is the difference between Product and Concept?

  • We’ll explain it to you now, with different examples.

 

As in any rigorous study, we first need a control sample:

Reference Product Life Cycle

 

We could have chosen a Coke, the Big Mac, a Whopper…

But we have chosen one of the most iconic cars ever produced: the Ford Mustang.

 

Its name has remained as synonym of powerful, strong and reliable car.

 

This iconic Product doesn’t lose Popularity, and that is why we have chosen it as our reference Product Life Cycle.

 

Google Trends results: Interest in “Ford Mustang”.

 

This flat line means that people is as interested in it today, as they were years ago.

Now, let’s analyze the 6 (+1) different Product Life Cycles that you can expect according to the 3 parameters that we previously explained:

1. New Product - New Concept - Easy to Copy

 

The Fidget Spinner is the perfect example of a fleeting product.

  • Suddenly it appeared… And suddenly it disappeared.

 

It was a New Product, with a New Concept (hand toys already existed, but they were not popular).

  • However, it was (and still is) extremely Easy to Copy.

 

Let’s analyze its Popularity with Google Trends:

Google Trends results: Interest in “Fidget Spinner”.

 

Its entire Product Life Cycle lasted one year.

2. New Product - New Concept - Not Easy to Copy

 

The iPad is a good example of a New Product, with a New Concept, but Not Easy to Copy.

 

Again: some people could argue that, PDAs already existed, as well as smartphones, but there were not exactly the same.

 

Let’s analyze its Product life cycle with Google Trends:

Google Trends results: Interest in “iPad”.

 

Although its Popularity reached a maximum in 2012 (it took 2 years to reach it) it seems that it has now entered in a “flat” stage.

  • Perhaps, it has already become a “reference product” such as the Ford Mustang.

 

* Those peaks are due to Christmas holidays or/ and the release of a new version. 

 

Other good example is the iPhone.

 

 

Since it was a much Newer Concept and Product, in every possible way (it was first introduced 3 years before the iPad) we would expect a much flatter curve in the growth stage:

 

Let’s analyze its Popularity with Google Trends:

Google Trends results: Interest in “iPhone”.

 

Exactly. As you can see in the image above, the newer the concept the flatter the growth stage.

 

But, this products are renewed every year.

There is a new iPhone every year, as well as new updated iPads.

 

What if a New Product, with a New Concept, Not Easy to copy were not constantly updated?

 

Let’s analyze Nintendo‘s Wii:

 

 

This product can answer this question.

  • It was a New Product, with a New Concept, Not Easy to copy, but it was launched once (not being re-launched every year).

 

Let’s analyze its Life Cycle with Google Trends:

Google Trends results: Interest in “Wii”.

 

It took Wii 1 year to reach maximum Popularity, then it had 1 year of maturity, and then a slow decline (over 10 years).

 

Its Product Life Cycle was almost the same as that observed in the iPad.

  • However, Nintendo released 2 substitute products with different name and design: Wii U and Switch.

3. New Product - Old Concept - Easy to Copy

 

Do you remember the Livestrong rubber band?

  • It was a simple rubber band that Nike developed for fighting cancer.

 

Simple, but everybody went crazy about it.

  • Its minimalist design.
  • All the celebrities had it.
  • Its manufacturing was initially limited.

 

It was a New Product, with an Old Concept, and Easy to Copy.

 

Let’s analyze what happened with Google Trends:

Google trends results: Interest in “Livestrong”.

 

As you can see in the image above, its Product Life Cycle lasted only two years.

  • The Growth stage lasted 9 months, and was followed by a sharp decline.

4. New Product - Old Concept - Not Easy to Copy

 

Speaking of Ford again, we will now look at one of its recent releases, the Ford Kuga.

 

This vehicle is a New Product, with an Old Concept (SUV vehicle) but it is Not Easy to Copy (developing a new car is something very difficult).

 

Let’s analyze its Popularity with Google Trends:

Google Trends results: Interest in “Ford Kuga”.

 

This graph shows a very successful product launch.

  • Its popularity, with its ups and downs, has grow steadily.

 

Moreover, since it was an Old Concept, its popularity grew strongly in the early stages.

  • It took just 11 months to reach that initial Popularity peak.

 

People tend to trust more in what they know best.

5. Old Product - New Concept - Easy to Copy

 

Few years ago, e-books were the big new trend.

And Amazon’s Kindle, was King.

  • A simple device that allowed you to read everything you wanted, wherever you wanted.

 

This product was not offering any new book.

What this product allowed you to do was to read your favorite books wherever you wanted in a new different way.

  • But those books already existed.

 

That is why Amazon’s Kindle could be considered as an Old Product (books) with a New Concept, but it was Easy to Copy (the technology involved was not very difficult).

 

Let’s analyze its popularity with Google Trends:

Google Trends results: Interest in “Kindle”.

 

Its popularity increased slowly for 4 years (from 2007 to 2011) and faded away the following 4 years (Interest < 20).

  • As we saw before, New Concepts are difficult to popularize.

6. Old Product - New Concept - Not Easy to Copy

 

What can we say about Netflix that you don’t know yet?

 

Netflix was a similar product to Kindle: they didn’t offer new content (at the beginning).

 

What Netflix initially offered was an Old Product (movies that already existed), with a New Concept, but it was Not Easy to Copy (you need powerful servers, contracts with films producers…).

 

Let’s analyze its Product Life Cycle with Google Trends:

Google Trends results: Interest in “Netflix”.

 

As you can appreciate, its Popularity has grown little by little for 10 years, since it is a New Concept.

 

In this example, the next years will be interesting:

  • Disney has just launched its Disney plus.

 

Moreover, Netflix is now investing in new self-produced content.

  • Maybe because now it is not that difficult to Copy their Concept (by big companies such as Disney) and, in that case, if that Concept is not New anymore, they will need New Products.

Seasonal Products

 

Now, we have to talk about Seasonal products.

Products such as:

  • Series.
  • Christmas-related Products.
  • Summer toys.
  • Ice Creams.
  • etc.

 

These products, present different cyclical trends.

And you can obtain good information comparing these differences.

 

Let’s analyze the Popularity of Game of Thrones:

Google Trends results: Interest in “Game of Thrones”.

 

By just seeing this graph, anyone could guess:

  • How many seasons it had.
    • Easy: 8 peaks = 8 seasons.
  • Their release dates.

And… more important:

  • Which Season has been the most popular.
    • By seeing the graph, we have no doubt: the 7th (we don’t say the best, just the most popular).

 

You may think this is useless but… it isn’t.

You can obtain information that is not obvious “a priori”.

 

Check now this graph:

Google Trends results: Interest in “Handmaid’s Tale”.

 

What conclusions can you draw from the Google Trends results of “The Handmaid’s Tale”?

  • … Yes… The first season was the most popular one (for me, the only good one).

As we mentioned earlier, this classifications can be nuance is infinite ways.

 

We wanted to highlight 3 important pillars that can help you when analyzing Product Life Cycles:

  • Whether you have a New or an Old Product.
  • Whether you have a New or an Old Concept.
  • Whether you have an Easy-to-Copy Product (as a whole) or Not.

 

Let’s summarize some of our main Conclusions:

Analysis of different Product Life Cycles: Conclusions

  • Well established products are those whose Popularity remains constant over the years.

 

  • The Newer a Concept is, the flatter its Growth stage will be.

 

  • People tend to trust more in what they know best.

 

  • If a product is Easy to Copy, its popularity will decline sooner than later.
    • No matter how big or important is the company. Remember Amazon’s Kindle.

 

  • By comparing different Life Cycles of different Seasons (in Google Trends) you can obtain valuable information about a Product and what customers value most.
    • In Seasonal Products, of course.

Now… How can you use this information?

Why are Product Life Cycles important?

How to use a Product Life Cycle model

This analysis can be very useful for different things.

We have compiled some of them:

You can forecast how a New Product can perform.

  • Depending on the 3 parameters explained earlier: Product, Concept, How easy is to copy it.

 

You can predict how long would it take a New Product to be Launched.

  • By analyzing other products that had similar parameters.

 

You could develop “Exit Strategies” by analyzing how evolves a Product’s popularity.

  • Remember: it’s also a victory to know when to retreat.

 

You can analyze different Seasons’ Life Cycles and define your product based on the conclusions obtained.

  • For products with a strong Seasonal component.

 

You can set “warning signals” and adopt different strategies depending on how a product’s popularity evolve.

  • If you predicted that your product would reach a certain Stage after a year and, 4 months later, its popularity is declining, you should do something about it.

©2020 - consuunt

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