Take an introductory course in Marketing, and in the very first class, you will hear the term “Product Life Cycle.” The Product Life Cycle (PLC) refers to where any product is in the “marketing cycle” of its life.
Product Life Cycles inform the company how well the product is doing, and what can be expected in the future by the stage that the product is in.
The Product Life Cycle
Every product goes through at least four stages in the PLC and many actually may experience five cycles. The cycles are:
- Introduction – The product is “introduced” to the market. It experiences significant marketing and advertising to create product awareness and to create a demand for the product. The hope is that the product will “catch on” and people will begin to buy it.
At this stage, the product is losing money after development and with marketing costs.
- Growth – Growth is the second stage that a product will go through, if marketing is successful. Sales begin to increase and profits begin to offset development and production costs. Marketing and advertising costs remain high to promote more growth.
- Maturity – Product Maturity is the third stage in the PLF. In this stage, the target market is generally aware of the product and sales are at an optimum level. Marketing costs are dramatically decreased. Profits are offsetting all costs and the product is now fully profitable.
- Decline – The fourth stage, Decline, occurs when either the competition has introduced similar products or new innovations have decreased the demand for the product. Sales are falling and profits are diminishing.
When a product goes into decline, the company is faced with a decision to make, whether to discontinue the product or else to “innovate” the product and “renew” it. Discontinuing the product will be based upon what innovations can be introduced to it to counter the decline.
Auto manufacturers are a perfect example of the decline/innovate problem. They must continuously offer innovations and changes to the yearly model changes that occur, or risk losing sales. However, at some point, changes to the auto lines will not stimulate new sales and the model is discontinued.
Product Life Cycles are everywhere
The Product Life Cycle concept can be applied to more than just manufactured products. They can exist in Services, Humans, and Organizations. Even countries are not immune from the Product Life Cycle.
Humans offer a particularly interesting look at a PLC. Examining a person’s education and employment shows a PLC in existence. For example:
- “John” graduates high school and goes into the work force. He works in the trades or service sectors and finds that the income is not sufficient or he is not happy.
- John quits the job and goes to college. He graduates with a degree in computer science and goes back into the workforce where he finds a job he is happy with and earns good money.
John has successfully taken himself from one PLC and through the college education, “innovated and renewed” himself into a new product.
- John is successful in the workforce for many years, but at some point, computer innovations render him a liability to the company and he is terminated. He is back in decline.
- John returns to college and educates himself in another field. Upon graduation, he returns to work in a new field and company, and created a new PLC for himself.
PLC’s are constantly changing and adapting to meet the demands of the future.
Product Life Cycle and the US
Countries experience their own PLCs. They come and go, with many being “reborn” again after revolutions, wars or just major changes. The US is certainly the product of a PLC change.
The US was born as a country, the result of a Product Life Cycle change. As the Colonies tired of British rule, they sought something more, their own governance. The British tried to hang on, by crushing the upstart Colonialists, but were unable to do so. And so the US was born.
The “first” PLC change that the fledging US faced began in the 1840’s with changes to American culture and the issue of Slavery. “Product Decline” began then, and culminated with the Civil War. By the end of the Civil War, slavery and succession and slavery problems were solved, and the country was “reborn and renewed” again.
Throughout the rest of the 1800’s, the US met with a new Growth Phase and then Maturity Phase. But in the early 1900’s, signs of Decline again began to appear with the Progressive Movement, and then the Depression.
During this period of time, the Roosevelt Administration tried “product innovation” to solve the problems of the country, instituting Progressive changes which failed to work. It was only the entry of the US into World War 2 which when ended, would usher in a new and innovative country.
For the first twenty years after World War 2 ended, the US faced a steady Growth period. It was a dynamic time that saw innovation and change on a continuing basis, with the “product” remaining strong. But the times were changing, and would soon enter a Maturity phase.
The Maturity phase began with the 1973 fuel crisis and would continue through the high interest rates and inflation of the late 90’s and early 80’s. This was ultimately overcome, but would be replaced with various problems like the Savings & Loan Crisis of the late 80’s. As these problems were solved, others would take their place in the 90’s and early 2000’s. What was not known then, but recognizable now was then a slow process of Decline was underway once again.
By the second decade of the 21st Century, the US was in a fully recognizable Decline. The country had divided into two distinct camps, the Far Left and the Far Right, each not willing to work with the other, and with different ideas of where the country should go.
With the approaching 2016 election, things were beginning to change. Once again, innovation was on the horizon, this time in the political arena. The entry of Donald Trump into the Presidential Election in 2015 was clear evidence of this innovative change. And the election of Trump to the Presidency was further evidence of the coming innovation.
The Future of the Current US Product Innovation
Today, the US continues to fight the Decline Phase of the American Experiment in its third Product Life Cycle change. The “innovations” that President Trump is attempting to bring about is being resisted by various parties.
- The Bureaucratic State is fighting the changes and innovations because the very life of the Bureaucratic State is being threatened. It will continue to fight to remain in its primary position of controlling the country by fiat.
- The Progressive Left is fighting the innovative changes because its agenda is being threatened, the creation of a new Progressive Republic, and a relentless march towards Socialism.
- The Conservative Right is fighting many of the innovative changes because it seeks a return to a past “product” and revocation of many of the past changes that have occurred.
What the future brings for the US product remains to be seen. Will the public accept the new “innovations” to the US product, or reject them outright? If they are rejected, then will the Far Left or the Far Right “win” in their desired changes, and if not, what happens to the American Experiment?
With a coming Financial Crisis in the near future, what happens then? Does the Republic remain together, or does it splinter into 3 or more countries?
At this time, there is no predicting what will happen to the American Experiment. All that we can do is buckle up, for it will be a wild ride.