When I started thinking about product life cycles I was reminded of my nannas Hoover washing machine. It was purchased at some point in the 1960s and is still working today having needed very little to no repairs in its lifetime. And then I thought about how often people get new phones.
This makes me think a lot about how products are made today and how they are designed to be disposable or succumb to obsolescence. Although a washing machine is a fair bit different to a smartphone it shows how much of a contrast there can be between the life cycle of different products.
Whenever a new phone comes into the market particularly a new apple iPhone it becomes an event. There is always media coverage showing people who have lined up overnight just to get their hands on the latest gadget. These people are known as innovators in the Diffusion of Innovation (Iacobucci 2014:100) They are the first 3-5% of buyers within the product life cycle who like new ideas and are willing to take risks. As a result they are the least price sensitive and may enjoy the status of having a new must have product before anyone else.
In 2016 I have just purchased my latest phone, a new Sony Xperia Z3 compact. Three out of my last four phones have been of the Sony brand. Despite my persuasion to the Sony brand, I am very unlikely to rush out and buy the latest Sony phone the first day it is released. My motivation for buying is largely based on price and research. I like the idea of waiting to see that a new product has no problems like the early majority but I am safely in the late majority, laggard stage who are risk averse, lower in income and do not care much about the latest gadgets (ibid) .
So why do I like Sony?
It is important to consider Brand Associations in this case. These are “the intangible cognitive and emotional associations that the company helps the customer connect to its brand” (ibid:79). Beyond the actual physical product of the phone I connect with the brand on an emotional level. A marketer may ask, why brand? For the customer, they convey information, signal quality, status, reduce risk and make purchase easier (ibid:78)
When I consider the Sony brand, I think:
- Japanese brand – large producers of technology, innovative, well-made products, high-quality
- Has been around a long time – credibility, integrity, reliability
- Produces other products – global brand, trusted
- Positive previous experience with Sony produces feelings of comfort and positivity with purchase
My ‘new’ Sony Xperia Z3 compact phone has actually been out on the market since September 2014 being succeeded by the Xperia Z5 models and soon to be Xperia X model(GSM Arena 2016). So in this sense the phone is well into the decline stage within its Product Life Cycle where sales and profits are down and new products are replacing older ones (ibid:98).
What is of interest though is that Sony actually were known for having a very short life cycle with phones where they released several flagship phones within a 7 month time frame (Martin 2014). So in this sense it is probably not hard to fall into a late majority/laggard buyer stage when phones essentially become obsolete in such a short time. This may be annoying for a customer who has just gone out and bought a phone to find it has very quickly been replaced or ‘upgraded’. It begs the questions: How long should a company wait before it brings out a new product? Is it competition driven or demanded by its customers? Does the nature of modern life and new technologies just make people really impatient?
Iacobucci D, 2014, MM4, Cengage Learning, 4th Edition, Chapter 7-8, p. 78-9, 98, 100
Martin T, 2014, ‘Why Sony’s seven-month Xperia Z-series cycle isn’t all bad’, Retrieved 22 April, 2016 <http://pocketnow.com/2014/07/31/seven-month-xperia-z-life-cycle>
Peterson R, 2013, ‘Water and dust resistant: Sony Xperia ZR Smartphone’ <http://m5.paperblog.com/i/53/530205/water-and-dust-resistant-sony-xperia-zr-smart-L-7X81Wo.jpeg> Image, Retrieved April 22, 2016
Unknown author, 2016, <https://atitus707.wordpress.com/product-life-cycle-stages-and-strategies/> Image, Retrieved April 22, 2016.
Unknown author, 2016, <http://www.gsmarena.com/> Retrieved April 22, 2016
Unknown author, 2016, <http://sphweb.bumc.bu.edu/otlt/MPH-Modules/SB/SB721-Models/Distribution.png/> Retrieved April 22, 2016