Among the challenges that marketers face in real life experiences versus school theories is the application of what we learn in our professional life. Schools updating frequently the books they use to reflect market development are limited. Even when some attempt to do it, they are not able to collect enough examples to prepare you for real life experiences. By all means, they cannot teach you a life time experience in a 3 credits course.
When I studied Business, I focused on marketing courses. I liked the field but I never thought I will be traveling to so many countries and exposed to different cultures. No university could have prepared me to such experience, yet I was taught the basics.
One of the concepts I learned in marketing is the Product Life Cycle (PLC) and its effects on the marketing mix. PLC is a term used to define the various stages that a product goes through. From its conception to its production, its maturity to its decline, the product goes through multiple phases and they are usually referred to as: Introduction, Growth, Maturity, and Decline. Although I find PLC to be a sales concept rather than marketing, the interrelation between sales and marketing makes the involvement of the marketers essential as they will have to adopt various approaches when facing the different stages.
Most of the articles I read about the PLC assume that the product is new, the competition is low to none, and that customers need to be educated and prompted to act towards the product. How about the not so new products? What if you are launching a competitive product in the market? Does your PLC follow your competitor’s product PLC? My answer is no.
I have worked in multiple types of markets varying from ones where my company had monopoly over mobile telecommunication to extremely competitive markets where we were the 4th operator to enter the market. I used the PLC as a reference although I believe that the decline phase in mobile communication is not something that I will see in my lifetime hence my preference in using the term Product Cycle versus Product Life Cycle. Surely, I watched the decline of some technologies used, only to be replaced by newer ones (AMPS versus GSM for example), I have also seen companies sold to bigger ones without affecting the presence of the product itself (mobile communication).
As I attempt to define the product cycle below, the reader should take into consideration that my approach is based on a professional experience to introduce a long term product in a competitive market by linking it to the marketing mix versus defining its characteristics from a sales point of view.
Product: Voice telephony is already known to the public. The investment in educating the public about the product is slim to none. Branding is usually what I focus on in order for the public to identify my product and be able to differentiate it from my competitors’,
Price: “Skim the cream” pricing was applicable when I worked for a company that monopolized the mobile telecommunication. The pricing policy to apply needs to be almost in line with my competitors, since it needs to attract customers without causing a price war between the operators (Fact: Companies need you as a customer for your money)
Place: Distribution depends on the type of market. If you have enough flexibility you can opt for direct sales via your own shops, through already established distribution channels (when existing distributors are not bound by your competitors’ exclusivity contracts) or by using the franchising approach. Usually I am faced with budget limitation and I start with using the existing distribution channels.
Promotion: Probably the most essential development in this stage. You will need to position yourself by differentiating yourself from your competition. Your message should be clear; you are not just another mobile operator. You need to build public awareness about your product without forgetting to position yourself in this competitive market. Depending on your strategy, your message is targeting the general public or the niche you are aiming for. Usually I start by targeting the general public since mobile telephony is used on a massive scale.
I should mention that usually at this stage I am introducing the basic mobile services. Due to the large investment made by the company it is not logical to invest in a multiple level of services hence increasing the expenditures. However the basic level of services should be able to offer a certain level of flexibility that guarantees positioning as a competitor.