4 Ways To Stretch Your Product’s Life Cycle

Anika Nishat

Anika Nishat

Remesher

Anika is a member of the Remesh marketing team.

Constantly evolving technology and changing consumer tastes mean today’s companies must be better than ever at developing new products and managing established ones. Understanding the various stages through which products typically pass is key to ensuring your product’s longevity. 

Enter: the product life cycle.

What is the product life cycle, or PLC? Think of your product as a living, breathing organism. Like other organisms, it transitions through various life cycle stages. From conception to demise, each stage of the product life cycle is characterized by new challenges and opportunities. 

 

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Stages of the Product Life Cycle

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There are five distinct stages within the product life cycle: development, introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. 

1. Development

This first stage encompasses everything leading up to the product’s launch, from ideation to building and refining the product. This phase is characterized by rigorous research and development and, depending on the product, can last for years. Many products never make it past this stage. Products with strong product-market fit have the best chances for success.

Throughout the development stage, costs accumulate during a period of zero sales and teams can face difficulty offsetting the negative cash flow. A common strategy used to move through this phase efficiently is to prepare a minimum viable product for launch and improve the product throughout the rest of the life cycle.

2. Introduction

Now that your product is through the initial development process, it’s ready to be introduced to the market. The introduction stage is all about building brand awareness through marketing strategies and advertising. Products that don’t generate enough buzz or drum up strong enthusiasm risk failing in the market. 

According to Nielsen, one of the top three reasons more than 80% of new consumer products fail in-market is insufficient marketing support

3. Growth

Depending on its success after entering the market, your product may now be in the much anticipated growth stage. Products in this stage have met the market need and have been well received by customers. As sales and profits increase, companies can invest more resources into building brand awareness and increasing market share. 

4. Maturity

In the maturity stage, company goals shift from building market share to maintaining it. At this point, the product is well established. Brand awareness is strong and the volume of sales is at an all time high. 

Increased competition means companies must differentiate and diversify. Successful product innovation can mean the difference between remaining in this stage or progressing to the final stage of the PLC. 

5. Decline

In the fifth and final stage of the product life cycle, revenue decreases as a result of increased competition, innovation, and changes in consumer behavior. Unlike revenue decreases in down cycles, which are a result of seasonal factors, revenue decline is a function of decreasing market share. At this stage, companies may consider rebranding the product for a different use, “harvesting” the product, or terminating production altogether. 

 

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How to Use the Product Life Cycle

It’s important to remember that the product life cycle is not a strict sentencing. It’s a framework—a way to think about your product over time and plan for its future. 

Keep in mind that many products and services have been around for generations and never reach decline. Look to “blue chip” companies which consistently outperform themselves, like Disney, IBM, and Intel. As a product team, your goal should be to extend the product life cycle and reach this legacy status. 

 

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Strategies For Stretching Your Product’s Lifespan 

1. Add New Features and Services

Maybe aspects of your product lag behind your competition, or maybe years on the market have rendered your product stale. Whatever the reason for your product’s decline, it may be time to switch it up. Brand innovation is a consumer selling point. That means new product features and services can enable you to meet the dynamic needs of your customers, challenge your competition, and revitalize your brand.

Take, for example, Instagram Stories. Adding a new feature that allows users to share content that disappears after 24 hours changed the social media company’s game. By adding Stories, Instagram met their customers’ desire to post more informal content, challenged their main competitor Snapchat, and addressed the toxic culture associated with the brand. In a single move toward ephemeral content, Instagram became the place to share the everyday moments in between the “Insta-worthy” ones.

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(Source: Buffer)

2. Revitalize Your Brand Packaging

Packaging is powerful.

It’s the first point of contact between consumers and brands, and the last differentiator between comparable products. Packaging can make the difference between a product being considered basic and cheap, or luxurious and chic. In fact, one study from Ipsos found that purchasing decisions for most American consumers are influenced by the design and material of product packaging

Anyone who’s ever needed scissors to open a package of scissors knows that packaging can also be a pain. Changing your product’s packaging to ease usage is a great way to bring new life to tired products. 

After years of product development and concept testing, for example, Tide invented the Tide Pod, which radically transformed the laundry process. Consumers raved about the ease and convenience of the product, and laundry was never the same again. 

Packaging is also important for developing brand identity - and even brands with global recognition can benefit from shaking up their packaging. Coca-Cola, for example, replaced their iconic logo with first names and colloquial nicknames in one successful re-packaging campaign. The idea itself led to an increase in sales by more than 2%. 

 

3. Identify New Markets

You’ve just discovered limitations in your product’s original target market. Whether the market has become saturated over time or an unexpected downturn in the industry has put your company in a precarious position, there’s no need to fear. The globalized world is better suited now than ever before for expansion into new markets. 

So don’t panic, pivot. 

Airbnb started as a way for San Franciscans to turn spare bedrooms and homes into vacation rentals. Today, it has more than seven million listings in more than 190 countries, with no plans to slow down. Aware of the rise of emerging markets in global tourism, Airbnb has escalated efforts in emerging markets like India and China to meet the growing demand. 

Broadening your product’s reach isn’t the only way to go about identifying new markets. Sometimes, developing a market that is more niche can have equally impactful results. 

Take T-Mobile, for example. T-Mobile has differentiated itself from competitors by catering to a smaller audience of young urbanites who don’t want to be bound to their cellular service provider. From paying early termination fees for customers to the bright pink in their color palette, T-Mobile has effectively carved out its space in the wireless carrier market. 

Identifying new markets for your product is a powerful tactical move because it plays offense and defense at the same time. On the offense, you’re unlocking new revenue streams and gaining an edge on your competition. On the defense, you’re protecting yourself from industry shifts by diversifying your offer.

 

4. Create Bold Advertising Campaigns

Not only can a creative advertising campaign do wonders for rejuvenating your product’s image—it can also make a real impact on product sales. One Harvard Business Review study found that investments in highly creative advertising campaigns had nearly double the sales impact of investments in more conservative approaches. 

Take for example Old Spice’s wildly popular advertising campaign, “Smell Like A Man, Man.” Old Spice’s claim to fame—that it’s been selling men’s grooming products since the early 1900s—later surfaced as a major vulnerability. People associated the classic Old Spice scent with their grandfathers, and the last thing young men wanted was to smell “old.” With new, younger products like Axe gaining popularity, Old Spice needed a fresh face to represent their brand.

The “Smell Like A Man, Man” campaign gave Old Spice exactly that. A short, punchy commercial featuring former NFL wide receiver Isaiah Mustafa as the eponymous “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” single handedly brought this iconic American brand into the 21st-century. The impact was huge: a 300% increase in traffic to the company’s website, a Primetime Emmy Award, and a dramatic influence on sales

The key to making the most of these strategies is to align them with your customers. Use iterative development techniques to make sure new initiatives resonate with the needs and preferences of customers. 

 

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Summing Up the Product Life Cycle (PLC)

Consumer expectations are evolving at a breakneck pace and product teams must evolve with them. Finding ways to stretch your product’s lifespan is critical in this climate of shrinking PLCs. Use these strategies independently and in combination with others to get ahead of your competition and ensure your product’s continual success.


Now that you know how to stretch your product’s life cycle, it’s time to think more about your product’s market. Check out our article on using market segmentation for better insight into your customers. 

READ: "5 Types of Market Segmentation & How To Use Them" 

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