Understanding Product Life Cycle Curves
It is important for marketing managers to understand the limitations of the product life cycle model. A rise in sales per se is not necessarily evidence of growth, just as a fall in sales does not typify decline. Some products like Coca Cola and Pepsi may not experience a decline at all.
Differing products possess different product life cycle "shapes." A fad product develops as a steeply-sloped growth stage, a short maturity stage, and a steeply-sloped decline stage (for instance, the pet rock phase in the 1970s). A product like Coca-Cola and Pepsi experiences growth, but also a constant level of sales over decades. A given product may hold a unique product life cycle shape such that use of typical product life cycle models are useful only as a rough guide for marketing management.
The duration of each product's life cycle stage is unpredictable, making it difficult to detect when maturity or decline has begun. Due to these limitations, strict adherence to the product life cycle model can lead a company to misleading objectives and strategy prescriptions.
Rather, the product life cycle model should be used as a rough guide to predict how sales patterns may play out given competitive and economic conditions. All in all, it is a useful model, but not a certainty.
The two charts Figure 1 and Figure 2 demonstrate the break-even point reached during the product life cycle as well as sales and profits in general. They show that the product does not make much profit during early periods of the life cycle, meaning the maturity stage must be extended to maximise profits.
Facebook is in the mature phase of the product life cycle. Once it became the norm for everyone to have a Facebook account, the growth stage passed. No new or obsoleting technology is expected to appear soon which would put Facebook out of business. While Facebook competes with other social media sites like Google+ and Twitter, it appears to be holding its own. Thus, we can say that Facebook is comfortably in the maturity stage.
The iPod touch is currently in the mature phase of the product life cycle. This is because the iPod touch is just an evolution of a product that has been around for long time. Competitors like Microsoft's Zune have just followed Apple's design and technology, while the iPod has evolved over multiple "generations," each adding new features and functionalities. Today, the iPod touch is more than just a music player; it plays videos, runs apps and can be used as an organizer. Such a product may be difficult to classify using the product life cycle model - is it the same old iPod, or an entirely new product?