If you are under 30 years old, you most likely have never had the experience of placing a vinyl record onto a turntable. Possibly in a club you have observed a DJ using this musical format but that may be as close as you have come. For you, and even for many people over 30 years old, vinyl records and turntables are old technologies, which have been replaced with the convenience of digital recordings. Since it has been such a long time since vinyl recordings were the main form of listening to music (25 or more years at this point), most people would assume this product form has long ago left the Maturity stage of the Product Life Cycle and now rests deep within the bowels of the Decline stage.
Well, maybe that is not quite what is happening. Sure there is a large number of Laggards that still prefer the sound of vinyl recordings over digital, but PLC strategy suggests when products reach the Decline stage of the PLC companies have little incentive to innovate or invest in the product form, and thus it is destined to die. That is, unless the product form experiences a reawakening that attracts new users.
This appears to be the situation with vinyl records. According to this New York Times story, the interest in vinyl records is growing and not just with old folks. As the story notes, 54 percent of vinyl customers are 35 years old and younger. Customers are demanding these products mostly because they believe the quality of sound recording on vinyl is superior to other audio formats.
For marketers, the problem is whether this is a trend that is sustainable or is it just a fad. As the story notes, companies producing vinyl are in a tough spot as most of the equipment used to press records is quite old and replacement parts are expensive. Yet, if demand continues to grow it is possible we can see a very unusual example of how a product that is all but dead, defies PLC theory and once again becomes a growth product.
Image by Gavin St. Ours