Criticisms of the PLC: Part 1

As we have seen, the PLC has the ability to offer marketers guidance on strategies and tactics as they manage products through changing market conditions. Unfortunately, the PLC does not offer a perfect model of markets as it contains drawbacks that prevent it from being applicable to all products. Among the problems cited are:

  • Shape of Curve – Some product forms do not follow the traditional PLC curve. For instance, clothing may go through regular up and down cycles as styles are in fashion then out then in again. Fad products, such as certain toys, may be popular for a period of time only to see sales drop dramatically until a future generation renews interest in the toy.
  • Length of Stages – The PLC offers little help in determining how long each stage will last. For example, some products can exist in the Maturity stage for decades while others may be there for only a few months. Consequently, it may be difficult to determine when adjustments to the Marketing Plan are needed to meet the needs of different PLC stages.
  • Competitor Reaction is Not Predictable – As we saw, the PLC suggests that competitor response occurs in a somewhat consistent pattern. For example, the PLC says competitors will not engage in strong brand-to-brand competition until a product form has gained a foothold on the market. The logic is that until the market is established it is in the best interest of all competitors to focus on building interest in the product form itself and not on claiming one brand is better than another. However, competitors do not always conform to theoretical models. Some will always compete on brand first and leave it to others to build market interest for the product form. Arguments can also be made that competitors will respond differently than what the PLC suggests on such issues as pricing, number of product options, spending on declining products, to name a few.
  • Patterns May Not Apply to All Global Markets – Marketers who base their strategies on how the PLC plays out in their home market may be surprised to see the PLC does not follow the same patterns when they enter other global markets. The reason is that customer behavior may be quite different within each market. For instance, a company may find that while customers in their home market easily understand how the company’s new product could save them time in performing a certain task, customers in a foreign market may not easily see the connection.