Break Free Product Life Cycle
Most firms build their marketing strategies around the concept of the product life cycle–the idea that after introduction, products inevitably follow a course of growth, maturity, and decline. It doesn’t have to be that way, says Harvard Business School marketing professor Youngme Moon. By positioning their products in unexpected ways, companies can change how customers mentally categorize them. In doing so, they can shift products lodged in the maturity phase back–and catapult new products forward–into the growth phase. The author describes three positioning strategies that marketers use to shift consumers’ thinking.
Reverse positioning strips away “sacred” product attributes while adding new ones (JetBlue, for example, withheld the expected first-class seating and in-flight meals on its planes while offering surprising perks like leather seats and extra legroom). Breakaway positioning associates the product with a radically different category (Swatch chose not to associate itself with fine jewelry and instead entered the fashion accessory category).
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And stealth positioning acclimates leery consumers to a new offering by cloaking the product’s true nature (Sony positioned its less-than-perfect household robot as a quirky pet).
Clayton Christensen described how new, simple technologies can upend a market. In an analogous way, these positioning strategies can exploit the vulnerability of established categories to new positioning. A company can use these techniques to go on the offensive and transform a category by demolishing its traditional boundaries. Companies that disrupt a category through positioning create a lucrative place to ply their wares–and can leave category incumbents scrambling.