We have talked many times about companies facing big problems when a product category reaches the Maturity stage of the Product Life Cycle (PLC). For instance, in 2014 we looked at how changes in the beer industry had dragged several older beer brands into the Maturity stage. Also in 2014, we saw how slow sales in the golf industry were likely a signal it was entering the Maturity stage. And back in 2010, we discussed how Apple’s introduction of the iPad was driving several competitive products to the Maturity stage.
As we note in our Planning With the Product Life Cycle tutorial, while reaching the Maturity stage may seem like a bad thing, it also should be a signal to marketers that changes are needed. Such changes come in many forms including: adding different features to a product in hopes of renewing customer interest; keeping the product mostly the same but targeting new markets; or accepting that things are changing and different products are now needed. The key to all of these options often comes down to timing. Marketers, who are ahead of their competitors in recognizing a leveling market and make the needed changes, often end up in a much better position than their rivals. Of course, if it turns out the market is only temporarily leveling off, such as what may occur during a recession, then making big changes may prove costly if the market recovers. But if a company has made the right decisions and the market is leveling off then their changes may pay off in a big way.
We can see an example of company winning by making changes ahead of a flattening market in this Fortune story. It provides insight on the strategic changes beverage company Dr. Pepper Snapple has instituted in the soft drink market, where carbonated beverage sales have declined for ten straight years. While other companies, including industry giants Pepsi and Coca-Cola, have seen their sales decline, Dr. Pepper Snapple sales have increased.
To keep ahead, Dr. Pepper Snapple has made a number of marketing adjustments including adding new non-carbonated products, addressing demands of growing markets, such as the Hispanic market, and engaging in product distribution deals with rivals Pepsi and Coca-Cola.