The Life Cycle theory of product marketing states that a product goes through stages of growth and decline similar to the stages of a human life: birth (introduction), followed by growth, maturity and death (decline). The theory further states that components of the marketing mix, including promotional objectives, vary depending on the product's current developmental stage. Components of the promotion mix include advertising, sales promotion, personal selling, publicity, direct mail and public relations. In this model, marketers are encouraged to base promotional objectives on the current life cycle to maximize return on long-term investment.
The infant product first appears in the marketplace during the introduction stage. The company's primary goal is to make potential customers aware of it. Companies often spend heavily on advertising to increase awareness. Publicity is also a major part of the mix during the product launch. The slant of advertising and publicity for a product is influenced by the overall industry. For example, Viagra was the only product of its kind when it was introduced, so a major effort centered on educating doctors and end users. However, when a new soft drink is introduced into the long-mature beverage market, the focus is on finding a unique segment to exploit, such as Red Bull being a high-sugar, high-caffeine, "energy" drink.
During the growth phase, competition increases as sales rise. Because competitive strategy has a significant impact on the life expectancy of a product, it is imperative that promotional objectives seek to show the superior quality, cost advantage or uniqueness of a product. The need for defensive action means greater advertising expenditures. To build brand loyalty, sales promotions and aggressive promotional pricing may be introduced. Segmentation may occur, as in the case of dozens of varieties of popcorn. The role of the sales staff becomes predominant because their job is to educate the potential purchaser or distributor about product features and benefits.
The sales curve of a mature product varies by industry and influences promotional objectives. Soft drinks have had a long maturity, while cassettes replaced eight-track tapes almost overnight. If the product is part of a highly competitive market, promotion objectives will center on continued segmentation and advertising that highlights the product's uniqueness and recent improvements. In some instances, a company that makes a product such as Lavoris Mouthwash will relaunch its product. Typically, a relaunch campaign includes new promotional efforts like couponing or aligning the product with promotional events. Advertising and other activities, such as sales contests, are aimed at getting distributors to actively promote the product.
During decline, sales may fall rapidly and firms begin removing items from the product line. For example, typewriters are nearing the end of the decline phase. Phase-out may begin with a lessening of promotional efforts. Gradually, only the most profitable distributors are kept. Unless repurposing is found for the product, as with the booming repurposed wood industry, it will eventually be completely phased out.