From fads to long-lasting products: how customers determine a product's life-cycle
Updated: Jul 7
Today, when a meme or an online challenge goes viral, it usually means that it quickly spreads over social media, gathers lots of likes and shares, and then fades away because another phenomenon took its place. Memes are also a good example of informational viral patterns. The only factor which determines just how viral a piece of content may become is how the public reacts to it and how quickly many people spread it.
It is no different with products. While every company wishes for life-long products, such as Coca-cola which was first served in 1886, some companies witness products with short shelf lives.
In the past, before the online era began, there were also products that went viral. But then they were called fads. A fad was a trend or a product that some people enthusiastically followed on an impulse for a short period. Some of us still remember the Macarena dance craze in 1993, to name one viral trend that did not last very long, but there were also products that skyrocketed immediately, made millions for their inventors, and then faded quickly from memory.
Take for example the Pet Rock, an amazing 1975 collectible toy, which was simply a smooth small river stone that was marketed like a live pet. Each stone was serviced in a special box, complete with accessories such as a collar you could wrap around the stone so that you can walk it, and there was also a 32-page training manual that instructed the consumer of how to take care and train the rock. The inventor, advertiser specialist Gary Dahl, sold 1 million pet rocks for $4 each and watched how the Pet rock made its creator a millionaire. The Pet Rock phenomenon lasted 6 months, mostly around the 1975 Christmas period, before dying out and being discontinued. The world was ready for its next fad.
Jumping 21 years to 1996, the new consumer craze revolved this time around a handheld digital pet. Japanese toymaker Bandai released the Tamagotchi, complete with orders of just how to feed it so it doesn't die. There was also a Tamagotchi song, containing such subliminal messages as "We should be together, forever and forever", but the product did not last very long. Although selling an amazing 70 million units at $20 each, interest in the product died down within 2 years. Such a fad found its way into the nine dumbest fads ever to make a money list.
Companies usually plan for long shelf-life products. If they manage their products well, those companies can enjoy huge revenues. The stages of the product's life cycle usually include the introduction stage, then growth, followed by maturity, and then decline. The only thing not known at the planning stage is the amount of time each of these four stages will have in the lifecycle of a product.
Nintendo is a company that serves as a good example for good life-cycle products management. Games originally released in the 1980s are continuously being updated with the latest technology. In recent years, the company has operated a subscription service on its Switch console to match consumer trends. Constantly updating its products makes them feel fresh to consumers and as a result, are generating great revenues and profits for Nintendo while also postponing the decline stage of the lifecycle.
In today's world, issuing new products or features to an existing product does not have to rely on guesswork or hunches. It is possible to evaluate each phase of the product's development with customer intelligence tools such as Affogata and receive valuable insights derived from such consumer feedback. The data analysis will lessen the risks taken in developing new products since customers' comments and conversations can serve as good indicators for product potential.