The Product Life Cycle Is A Not So Helpful Regression

product life cycle

At my last university session we discussed the product life cycle and it being a regression. Since I have started focussing on regressions thematically as a means of evidence-based management, this fact immediately caught my attention.

Why the Concept Fails for Trend Analysis

However, the professor also stated that he finds the concept of the PLC highly useless for predicting the future development or the success of a future launch of a product. His opinion was that you just couldn’t predict at which point of the product life cycle you are and if your product will ever witness such a smooth curve at all with a known 90% failure rate of products in the food industry (quoting my professor). I agree. Add to that, that you can use that model for the introduction of a new product category AND for a single, company-specific product <– mixing stuff up. 

What Do You Need the Graph For Then?

If you can’t plan according to the PLC – what is the graph needed for? “This is how your product COULD develop – but it probably won’t.” There is no value-added in that statement. And in retrospect you can say “This is how the development of successful products looks like and since our product developed the same way, it is proof that our product was successful!”. No value-added as well, since there are way better indicators for stating that. What I would like to be able to say is: “We started way steeper during Introduction, had a way longer growth phase and relaunched successfully a couple of times whenever we hit the maturity phase.” <– THAT would be a cool statement.  

But is that the entire value of the PLC concept? I believe a further value of it is the mere seperation into phases and that you can tell your boss that it’s ok that a product hits bottom at some point. It’s a good thing that you have something to argue with or look at while discussing about “large majority”, “relaunchs”, “exit strategy”…


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