Product life cycle management pdf

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Urban and Regional Innovation Research Unit

Faculty of Engineering
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki



Electronic Engineer, B.Eng M.Sc.(Eng)


Thessaloniki 2002


Product Life Cycle Management 2


ANNEX 1 20
ANNEX 2 23

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Product Life Cycle Management 3


All products and services have certain life cycles. The life cycle refers to the period
from the product’s first launch into the market until its final withdrawal and it is split
up in phases. During this period significant changes are made in the way that the
product is behaving into the market i.e. its reflection in respect of sales to the
company that introduced it into the market. Since an increase in profits is the major
goal of a company that introduces a product into a market, the product’s life cycle
management is very important. Some companies use strategic planning and others
follow the basic rules of the different life cycle phase that are analyzed later.

The understanding of a product’s life cycle, can help a company to understand and
realize when it is time to introduce and withdraw a product from a market, its position
in the market compared to competitors, and the product’s success or failure.

For a company to fully understand the above and successfully manage a product’s life
cycle, needs to develop strategies and methodologies, some of which are discussed
later on.

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Product Life Cycle Management 4


The product’s life cycle – period usually consists of five major steps or phases:
Product development, Product introduction, Product growth, Product maturity and
finally Product decline. These phases exist and are applicable to all products or
services from a certain make of automobile to a multimillion-dollar lithography tool
to a one-cent capacitor. These phases can be split up into smaller ones depending on
the product and must be considered when a new product is to be introduced into a
market since they dictate the product’s sales performance.

Fig. 1: Product Life Cycle Graph

Source: William D.


Product development phase begins when a company finds and develops a new product
idea. This involves translating various pieces of information and incorporating them
into a new product. A product is usually undergoing several changes involving a lot of
money and time during development, before it is exposed to target customers via test
markets. Those products that survive the test market are then introduced into a real
marketplace and the introduction phase of the product begins. During the product

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Product Life Cycle Management 5

development phase, sales are zero and revenues are negative. It is the time of
spending with absolute no return.


The introduction phase of a product includes the product launch with its requirements
to getting it launch in such a way so that it will have maximum impact at the moment
of sale. A good example of such a launch is the launch of “Windows XP” by
Microsoft Corporation.

This period can be described as a money sinkhole compared to the maturity phase of a
product. Large expenditure on promotion and advertising is common, and quick but
costly service requirements are introduced. A company must be prepared to spent a lot
of money and get only a small proportion of that back. In this phase distribution
arrangements are introduced. Having the product in every counter is very important
and is regarded as an impossible challenge. Some companies avoid this stress by
hiring external contractors or outsourcing the entire distribution arrangement. This has
the benefit of testing an important marketing tool such as outsourcing.

Pricing is something else for a company to consider during this phase. Product pricing
usually follows one or two well structured strategies. Early customers will pay a lot
for something new and this will help a bit to minimize that sinkhole that was
mentioned earlier. Later the pricing policy should be more aggressive so that the
product can become competitive. Another strategy is that of a pre-set price believed to
be the right one to maximize sales. This however demands a very good knowledge of
the market and of what a customer is willing to pay for a newly introduced product.

A successful product introduction phase may also result from actions taken by the
company prior to the introduction of the product to the market. These actions are
included in the formulation of the marketing strategy. This is accomplished during
product development by the use of market research. Customer requirements on
design, pricing, servicing and packaging are invaluable to the formation of a product
design. A customer can tell a company what features of the product are appealing and
what are the characteristics that should not appear on the product. He will describe the

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ways of how the product will become handy and useful. So in this way a company
will know before its product is introduced to a market what to expect from the
customers and competitors. A marketing mix may also help in terms of defining the
targeted audience during promotion and advertising of the product in the introduction


The growth phase offers the satisfaction of seeing the product take-off in the
marketplace. This is the appropriate timing to focus on increasing the market share. If
the product has been introduced first into the market, (introduction into a “virgin”1
market or into an existing market) then it is in a position to gain market share
relatively easily. A new growing market alerts the competition’s attention.

The company must show all the products offerings and try to differentiate them from
the competitors ones. A frequent modification process of the product is an effective
policy to discourage competitors from gaining market share by copying or offering
similar products. Other barriers are licenses and copyrights, product complexity and
low availability of product components.

Promotion and advertising continues, but not in the extent that was in the introductory
phase and it is oriented to the task of market leadership and not in raising product
awareness. A good practice is the use of external promotional contractors.

This period is the time to develop efficiencies and improve product availability and
service. Cost efficiency and time-to-market and pricing and discount policy are major
factors in gaining customer confidence. Good coverage in all marketplaces is
worthwhile goal throughout the growth phase.

Managing the growth stage is essential. Companies sometimes are consuming much
more effort into the production process, overestimating their market position.
Accurate estimations in forecasting customer needs will provide essential input into

1 A good example of a “virgin” market can be considered the market of China. This market was closed
to most western companies and their products and is slowly opening up to new products and services.

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production planning process. It is pointless to increase customer expectations and
product demand without having arranged for relative production capacity. A company
must not make the mistake of over committing. This will result into losing customers
not finding the product “on the self”.


When the market becomes saturated with variations of the basic product, and all
competitors are represented in terms of an alternative product, the maturity phase
arrives. In this phase market share growth is at the expense of someone else’s
business, rather than the growth of the market itself. This period is the period of the
highest returns from the product. A company that has achieved its market share goal
enjoys the most profitable period, while a company that falls behind its market share
goal, must reconsider its marketing positioning into the marketplace.

During this period new brands are introduced even when they compete with the
company’s existing product and model changes are more frequent (product, brand,
model). This is the time to extend the product’s life.

Pricing and discount policies are often changed in relation to the competition policies
i.e. pricing moves up and down accordingly with the competitors one and sales and
coupons are introduced in the case of consumer products. Promotion and advertising
relocates from the scope of getting new customers, to the scope of product
differentiation in terms of quality and reliability.

The battle of distribution continues using multi distribution channels2. A successful
product maturity phase is extended beyond anyone’s timely expectations. A good
example of this is “Tide” washing powder, which has grown old, and it is still


2 Multi distribution channel is one that offers back up distribution ways. A good example is the use of
retail stores and the use of Internet. The former requires a completely different distribution channel
than the latter and a product usually is distributed through the former first.

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The decision for withdrawing a product seems to be a complex task and there a lot of
issues to be resolved before with decide to move it out of the market. Dilemmas such
as maintenance, spare part availability, service competitions reaction in filling the
market gap are some issues that increase the complexity of the decision process to
withdraw a product from the market. Often companies retain a high price policy for
the declining products that increase the profit margin and gradually discourage the
“few” loyal remaining customers from buying it. Such an example is telegraph
submission over facsimile or email. Dr. M. Avlonitis from the Economic University
of Athens has developed a methodology, rather complex one that takes under
consideration all the attributes and the subsequences of product withdrawal process.

Sometimes it is difficult for a company to conceptualize the decline signals of a
product. Usually a product decline is accompanied with a decline of market sales. Its
recognition is sometimes hard to be realized, since marketing departments are usually
too optimistic due to big product success coming from the maturity phase.

This is the time to start withdrawing variations of the product from the market that are
weak in their market position. This must be done carefully since it is not often
apparent which product variation brings in the revenues.

The prices must be kept competitive and promotion should be pulled back at a level
that will make the product presence visible and at the same time retain the “loyal”
customer. Distribution is narrowed. The basic channel is should be kept efficient but
alternative channels should be abandoned. For an example, a 0800 telephone line with
shipment by a reliable delivery company, paid by the customer is worth keeping.

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There are some major product life cycle management techniques that can be used to
optimize a product’s revenues in respect to its position into a market and its life cycle.
These techniques are mainly marketing or management strategies that are used by
most companies worldwide and include the know-how of product upgrade,
replacement and termination. To comprehend these strategies one must first make a
theoretical analysis of the model of product life cycle.

In the mid 70’s the model of product life cycle described in “Part 1”, was under heavy
criticism by numerous authors. The reasons behind this criticism are described

a. The shift changes in the demand of a product along a period of time makes the
distinction of the product life cycle phase very difficult, the duration of those almost
impossible to predict and the level of sales of the product somewhat in the realm of
the imagination.

b. There are many products that do not follow the usual shape of the product life cycle
graph as shown in fig. 13.

c. The product life cycle does not entirely depend on time as shown in fig. 1. It also
depends on other parameters such as management policy, company strategic decisions
and market trends. These parameters are difficult to be pinpointed and so are not
included in the product life cycle as described in “Part 1”.

The model of product life cycle also depends on the particular product. There would
be different models and so different marketing approaches. There are basically three
different types of products: a product class (such as a cars), a product form (such as a
station wagon, coupe, family car etc of a particular industry) and a product brand of
that particular industry (such as Ford Escort). The life cycle of the product class
reflects changes in market trend and lasts longer than the life cycle of the product

3 Professor Cox was able to identify six different shapes of the product life cycle graph in a research of
a 256 pharmaceutical products.

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form or brand. In the other hand the life cycle of a product form or brand reflects the
competitiveness of a company (i.e. sales, profits) and therefore follows more closely
the product life cycle model.

Nevertheless, a product manager must know how to recognize which phase of its life
cycle is a product, regardless of the problems in the model discussed above. To do
that a good method is the one, suggested by Donald Clifford in 1965, which follows.

• Collection of information about the product’s behavior over at least a period of
3 – 5 years (information will include price, units sold, profit margins, return of
investment – ROI, market share and value).

• Analysis of competitor short-term strategies (analysis of new products
emerging into the market and competitor announced plans about production
increase, plant upgrade and product promotion).

• Analysis of number of competitors in respect of market share.
• Collection of information of the life cycle of similar products that will help to

estimate the life cycle of a new product.
• Estimation of sales volume for 3 – 5 years from product launch.
• Estimation of the total costs compared to the total sales for 3 – 5 years after

product launch (development, production, promotion costs). The estimate
should be in the range of 4:1 in the beginning to 7:1 at the stage where the
product reaches maturity.

Strategies that must be applied as soon as the phase of product life cycle is recognized
are given in the table bellow.

Table 1: Strategies of each product life cycle phase

Development Introduction Growth Phase Maturity Decline Phase

Phase Phase Phase
Strategic Goal Make your Acquire a Maintain your Defend market “Milk” all

product strong market market position from remaining
known and position position and competitors profits from
establish a test build on it and improve product
period your product

Competition Almost not Early entry of Price and Establishment Some
there aggressive distribution of competitive competitors

competitors channel environment are already
into the pressure withdrawing

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market from market
Product Limited Introduction Improvement Price decrease Variations and

number of of product – upgrade of models that
variations variations and product are not

models profitable are

Price Goal High sales to Aggressive Re-estimation Defensive Maintain price
middle men price policy of price policy price policy level for small

(decrease) for profit
sales increase

Promotion Creation of Reinforcement Reinforcement Maintain loyal Gradual
Goal public – of product of middle men to middle men decrease

market awareness and
product preference

Distribution Exclusive and General and General and General and Withdrawal
Goal selective reinforced reinforced reinforced from most

distribution distribution distribution distribution channels of
through through all with good with good distribution
certain distribution supply to the supply to the except those
distribution channels middle men middle men used in the
channels and available but with low but with low development
creation of margins of margins of phase
high profit profit for them profit for them
margins for
middle men

Source: Avlonitis G.

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Product cannibalization occurs when a company decides to replace an existing
product and introduce a new one in its place, regardless of its position in the market
(i.e. the product’s life cycle phase does not come into account). This is due to newly
introduced technologies and it is most common in high tech companies. As all things
in life there is negative and positive cannibalization.

In the normal case of cannibalization, an improved version of a product replaces an
existing product as the existing product reaches its sales peak in the market. The new
product is sold at a high price to sustain the sales, as the old product approaches the
end of its life cycle. Nevertheless there are times that companies have introduced a
new version of a product, when the existing product is only start to grow. In this way
the company sustain peak sales all the time and does not wait for the existing product
to enter its maturity phase. The trick in cannibalization is to know when and why to
implement it, since bad, late or early cannibalization can lead to bad results for a
company sales4.


Cannibalization should be approached cautiously when there are hints that it may
have an unfavorable economic effect to the company, such as lower sales and profits,
higher technical skills and great retooling. The causes of such economic problems are
given bellow.

• The new product contributes less to profit than the old one: When the new
product is sold at a lower price, with a resulting lower profit than the old one,
then it does not sufficiently increase the company’s market share or market

• The economics of the new product might not be favorable: Technology
changes can force a product to be cannibalized by a completely new one. But

4 IBM made some severe mistakes in the past by avoiding cannibalizing because it was the market
leader, letting competitors succeed.

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in some cases the loss of profits due to the cannibalization is too great. For
example a company that produced ready business forms in paper was forced to
change into electronic forms for use in personal computers. Although the
resulting software was a success and yield great profits, the sales of the paper
forms declined so fast that the combined profit from both products, compared
to the profits if the company did not cannibalize the original product showed a
great loss in profits. (See table bellow)

Table 2: Comparison of revenues – profits

“Software” “Software” Lost “Forms” Lost “Forms” Change in
Revenue Profit Revenue Profit Profit
$10 $5 $15 $10 -$5

Source: McGrath M.

• The new product requires significant retooling: When a new product requires a
different manufacturing process, profit is lower due to the investment in that
process and due to the write-offs linked to retooling the old manufacturing

• The new product has greater risks: The new product may be profitable but it
may have greater risks than the old one. A company cannot cannibalize its
market share using a failed or failing product. This can happen in high-tech
companies that do not understand enough of a new technology so that to turn it
into a successful and working product. As a result a unreliable product
emerges and replaces a reliable one, that can increase service costs and as a
result decrease expected profits.


Cannibalization favors the attacker and always hurts the market leader. For companies
that are trying to gain market share or establish themselves into a market,

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cannibalization is the way to do it5. Also cannibalization is a good way to defend
market share or size. A usual practice is the market leader to wait and do not
cannibalize a product unless it has to. It is thought that a company should acquire and
develop a new technology that will produce a newer and better product than an
existing one and then wait. Then as competitors surface and attack market share,
cannibalization of a product is ripe. Then and only then quick introduction of a new
product into the market will deter competition, increase profits and keep market share.
But this strategy does not always work since delays will allow the competition to grab
a substantial piece of the market before the market leader can react.


Controlled cannibalization can be a good way to repel attackers as deforesting can
repel fire. A market leader has many defensive cannibalization strategies that are
discussed bellow.

• Cannibalize before competitors do: Cannibalization of a company’s product(s)
before a competitor does, is a defensive strategy to keep the competitor of
being successful. Timing is the key in this strategy. Do it too soon and profits
will drop, do it to late and market share is gone.

• Introduction of cannibalization as a means of keeping technology edge over
competition: A good strategy is for a company, that is the market leader, to
cannibalize its products as competitors start to catch up in terms of technology
advancements. (For example “Intel Corporation” cannibalized its 8088
processor in favor of the 80286 after 2 ½ years, the 80286 in favor of the 386
after 3 years, the 386 in favor of the 486 after 4 years, the 486 in favor with
the Pentium after another 4 ½ and so on). So the market leader dictates the
pace and length of a product’s life cycle. (In the case on Intel the replacement
of 486 to Pentium took so long because competitors had not been able to catch

5 INTEL and AMD are companies that use cannibalization as an offensive strategy tool. Amd uses it to
grab a bite of Intel’s market share of CPUs and Intel uses it to defend its market share as market leader.
Another example is the “war” waging between Sega and Nintendo as one company after the other
cannibalize its products, introducing new ones, in an effort to keep and gain market share.

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• Management of cannibalization rate through pricing: When cannibalization of
a product is decided, the rate at which this will happen depends on pricing.
The price of the new product should be at a level that encourages a particular
mix of sales of the old and new product. If the price of the new product is
lower than the price of the old then cannibalization rate slows down. If the
opposite happens then the cannibalization rate is increased. Higher prices in
new products can reflect their superiority over the old ones.

• Minimization of cannibalization by introducing of the new product to certain
market segments: Some market segments are less vulnerable to
cannibalization to others. This is because there is more or less to lose or gain
for each of them. By choosing the right segment to perform the
cannibalization of a product a company can gain benefits without loses and
acquire experience on product behavior.


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As a new technology matures so is the product or service that uses this technology.
The change that occurs during a technology life cycle has a unique reflection on the
customers and so on the product life cycle.

In the early days of a new technology, early adopters and technology enthusiasts drive
a market since they demand just technology. This drive and demand is translated as
the introduction phase of a new product by many companies. As technology grows
old, customers become more conservative and demand quick solutions and
convenience. In this case a product usually enters in the realm of its growth and as
time passes its maturity.

Fig. 2: Change in customers as technology matures

Source: Norman D.

The “chasm” shown in the graph above depicts the difference between the early and
late adopters. Each needs different marketing strategies and each is translated to a
product’s different phase of its life cycle. One should note that the late adopters hold
the greatest percentage of customers in a market. This is why most products begin
their life cycle as technology driven and change into customer driven as time passes
by. A good example of this is the computer market. In one hand customers ask for

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ease of use, convenience, short documentation and good design. On the other hand
customers rush out to purchase anything new regardless of its complexity. This is why
companies6 in the computer industry withdraw their products long before they reach
their maturity phase. This is the moment that a product reaches its peak i.e. the time
that both early and late adopters buy the product.

6 Intel Corporation is one of the companies that usually withdraw products during their peak to replace
them with other ones of better and newer technology.

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Product management is a middle level management function that can be used to
manage a products life cycle and enables a company to take all the decisions needed
during each phase of a product’s life cycle. The moment of introduction and of
withdrawal of a product is defined by the use of product management by a Product

A Product Manager exists for three basic reasons. For starters he manages the
revenue, profits, forecasting, marketing and developing activities related to a product
during its life cycle. Secondly, since to win a market requires deep understanding of
the customer, he identifies unfulfilled customer needs and so he makes the decision
for the development of certain products that match the customers and so the markets
needs. Finally he provides directions to internal organization of the company since he
can be the eyes and ears of the products path during its life cycle.

To improve a product success during each of its phase of its life cycle (development –
introduction – growth – maturity – decline), a product manager must uphold the
following three fundamentals.

• Understand how product management works: When responsible for a given
new product, a product manager is required to know about the product, the
market, the customers and the competitors, so that he van give directions that
will lead to a successful product. He must be capable of managing the
manufacturing line as well as the marketing of the product. When the product
manager has no specific authority over those that are involved in a new
product, he needs to gather the resources required for the organization to meet
product goals. He needs to know where to look and how to get the necessary
expertise for the success of the product.

• Maintain a product / market balance: The product manager as the person that
will make a new product to work, needs to understand and have a strong grasp
of the needs of the customer / market and therefore make the right decisions

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on market introduction, product life cycle and product cannibalization. To
achieve the above he must balance the needs of the customers with the
company’s capabilities. Also he needs to balance product goals with company
objectives. The way a product’s success is measured depends on where the
product is in its life cycle. So the product manager must understand the
strategic company direction and translate that into product strategy and
product life cycle position.

• Consider product management as a discipline: Managing a product must not
be taken as a part time job or function. It requires continuous monitoring and
review. Having said that, it is not clear why many companies do not consider
product management as a discipline. The answer lies in the fact that product
management is not taught as engineering or accounting i.e. does not have
formalized training.

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PRICE High, customers willing to pay premium for new product.

Early adopters.
PROMOTION Limited. Highly targeted promotional efforts aimed at

specific customers
DISTRIBUTION Direct (factory to customer) or limited distribution through

specific strategic partners.
SALES Small team of highly skilled salesmen with good knowledge

of the market.
DEVELOPMENT Focus on time to market and uniqueness.
MANUFACTURING High expenditure for new production capacity.
SERVICE High level of service for targeted customers.
SUPPORT Direct factory support. Engineering involvement is required.
TRAINING Focused on new product features, benefits, differentiation,

pricing and functionality.
TECHNOLOGY New and innovative.
COMPETITION Limited. May be offering different solution for the same

problem or application.
MARKET SHARE Low overall.
PRICE 10% of market level. – 10% if the brand name is weak and

competition is severe, + 10% if sales are good and
competition does not have similar product to offer.

PROMOTION Heavy. Targeted promotions, trade shows, direct mail, sales
seminars, articles and press releases.

DISTRIBUTION Highly skilled. Focused channels with strong technical skills
if needed, complementary products and services.

SALES Everywhere possible. Retail shops, telephone, internet.
DEVELOPMENT Complete development. Market penetration is sustained with

variations and improvements of the product.
MANUFACTURING Addition of capacity and automation.

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SERVICE Local and regional, fully staffed.
SUPPORT Phone support.
TRAINING Transition to newer version of product.
TECHNOLOGY Newer and leading edge.
COMPETITION New appearing worldwide.
MARKET SHARE High growth. All out market warfare with competitors.
PRICE Stable.
PROMOTION Focused on reliability, quality, predictability, new

DISTRIBUTION Many distributors, alternative channels, offshore sales.
SALES Direct sales focused on hi-volume, high profit.
DEVELOPMENT Focused on cost reductions.
MANUFACTURING Focused on increasing yield and productivity.
SERVICE Distributors take over the service efforts.
SUPPORT Local channels lead support.
TRAINING Competition differentiation.
COMPETITION Well established.
MARKET SHARE Predictable market share every year. Limited opportunities

for quick gains.
PRICE High compared to the demand.
PROMOTION Limited – no promotion or advertising efforts.
DISTRIBUTION Use of existing channels.
SALES Maintenance and repair orientated for high-tech products.
DEVELOPMENT Focused on cost reduction.
MANUFACTURING No capital expenditures, outsourcing.
SERVICE High prices on spare parts.
SUPPORT Phone support.
TECHNOLOGY Old and outdated.

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MARKET SHARE Shrinking fast.

Source: Daft L.

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Many companies find it very difficult to estimate the impact of cannibalization of a
new product. This is way companies frequently make the wrong decisions on when
and what to cannibalize. As mentioned before, they introduce a product to early into a
market or too late and subsequently they lose a great share of the market and the
process of cannibalization backfires at them. The following table shows a theoretical
analysis of a products revenues and the impact of cannibalization of it in favor of
another product.

Course 1 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

Investment -10000 0 0 0 0
Units sold 50 400 1200 2000 2000

Selling price ($) 50 45 42 40 40
Revenue ($) 2500 18000 50400 80000 80000

Net income (%) 15 15 15 15 15
Net income ($) 375 2700 7560 12000 12000

Net investment ($) -9625 -6925 635 12635 24635

Course 2 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
New product

income ($) 375 2700 7560 12000 12000

Units sold 0 300 1000 1500 1500
Selling price ($) 40 40 40 40 40

cannibalized ($) 0 12000 40000 60000 60000
Net income (%) 15 15 15 15 15

cannibalized ($) 0 1800 6000 9000 9000
Income net of

cannibalization ($) 375 900 1560 3000 3000
Net investment ($) -9625 -8725 -7165 -4165 -1165

Course 3 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

Income net of
cannibalization ($) 375 900 1560 3000 3000
Expected lost

Units 0 0 500 1000 1000

Selling price ($) 40 40 40 40 40
Lost revenue

expected ($) 0 0 20000 40000 40000
Net income (%) 15 15 15 15 15
Lost income

expected ($) 0 0 3000 6000 6000

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Income net of
cannibalization with
adjustment for low

sales ($) 375 900 4560 9000 9000
Net investment ($) -9625 -8725 -4165 4835 13835

In the table above there are three courses to be taken. The first one is a financial
analysis of a product. How units of the product are expected to be sold over the next 3
years, how many of them were sold over the period 2000 and 2001, their total
revenue, their total income, and the profits compared to the initial investment.

Course 2 considers the impact of cannibalization over the same period of time. In
2001 300 of the total 400 units were sold of the original product and only 100 of the
newly introduced product and so on. In the analysis net income from Course 1 is the
starting point and adjustments due to cannibalization are made. The analysis shows
that losses from cannibalization are never fully recovered and a loss of $1165 is left at
the end of 2004.

Course 3 shows the situation if the company did nothing compared to cannibalization.
Lost sales are due to competition that already has cannibalized its product and gains
market share. A total of $15.000 could be lost be the end of 2004. Compared to the
cannibalization alternative, there is a profit and an increase in total income which will
cover the initial investment and which would expect to rise around $13.000 by the end
of 2004.

So cannibalization seems a good idea but a better would be to delay it for 2 years
(2000 and 2001) so as to optimize revenues and income from both existing product
and new product.

Source: McGrath M.

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Product Life Cycle Management 25


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URENIO – Urban and Regional Innovation Research Unit