The Product Life Cycle (PLC) focuses on what is happening to a particular product or brand rather than on what is happening to the overall market. It yields a product-oriented picture rather than a market-oriented picture. Firms need to visualize a marketâ€™s evolutionary path as it is affected by new needs, competitors, technology, channels, and other developments.
In the course of a productâ€™s or brandâ€™s existence, its positioning must change to keep pace with market developments. Consider the case of Lego.
LEGO group, the Danish toy company, enjoyed a 72% global market hare of the construction toy market; but children were spending more of their spare time with video games, computers, and television and less time with traditional toys. Lego recognized the need to change or expand its market space. It redefined its market space as â€œfamily edutainmentâ€, which included toys, education, interactive technology, software, computers, and consumer electronics. All involved exercising the mind and having fun. Part of LEGO groupâ€™s plan is to capture an increasing share of customer spending as children become young adults and then parents.
Like products, markets evolve through four stages: emergence, growth, maturity, and decline.
Before a market materializes, it exists as a latent market. For example, for centuries people have wanted faster means of calculation. The market satisfied this need with abacuses, slide rules, and large adding machines. Suppose an entrepreneur recognizes this need and imagines a technological solution in the form of small, hand held electronic calculator. He has to determine the product attributes, including physical size number of mathematical functions. Because he is market-oriented, he interviews potential buyers and finds that target customers vary greatly in their preferences. Some want a four function calculator (adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing) and others want more functions (calculating percentage, square roots and logs). Some want a small hand calculator and others want a large one. This type of market in which buyer preferences scatter evenly is called a diffused-preference market.
The entrepreneurâ€™s problem is to design an optimal product for this market. He or she has three options:
1. The new product can be designed to meet the preferences of one of the corners of the market (a single-niche strategy).
2. Two or more products can be simultaneously launched to capture two or more parts of the market (a multiple-niche strategy).
3. The new product can be designed for the middle of the market (a mass-market strategy).
For small firms, a single-niche market strategy makes the most sense. A small firm does not have the resources for capturing and holding the mass market. A large firm might go after the mass market by designing a product that is medium in size and number of functions. Assume that the pioneer firm is large and designs its product for the mass market. On launching the product, the emergence stage begins.