Lifebuoy in India: Product Life Cycle Strategies

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The PLC concept is very useful to marketers and brand managers for many reasons. First of all, the concept establishes that products follow a life cycle that starts when they are launched, from there they will grow and will, one day, die. However, the most important advantage of this model is that it divides the life of a product in several stages with different characteristics, mostly based on the sales level and growth: introduction, growth, maturity and decline. This division allows managers to have some insights on which strategies can be taken, according to the behavior of the sales of a product. Also it may help predicting how the competition will act and what will be the future growth tendencies for the product.

Nevertheless, it is important to underline that the PLC model cannot predict the duration of the several phases as they vary from product to product. Also there isn´t a completely clear relationship between the sales of a product and the stage it is in. A decline in sales, for example, doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is in the decline phase as the decrease may only be temporary because of exogenous factors. If it is so, the product can be considered to be on the wrong stage. Finally, the common strategy for each stage may not be the only solution for a specific product. Therefore, caution is needed when planning strategies for each product.

2. How did Lifebuoy strategies in the early stages of its PLC enabled the brand to become a leader?

When Lifebuoy was introduced in the market, its positioning was a ” promise to kill germs and keep the body healthy”, addressing one of the main problems the Indian market had: the plagues, and therefore exploring the market need for hygiene and health protection. Lifebuoy main strategy was to have low prices and low promotion, in order for the ones that were affected by the plague problem, rural and poor people, to be able to purchase the product. These two factors helped the brand to face a high demand since there was still no competition in this stage of the PLC. During the growth phase, Lifebuoy was able to adapt to the environment lived in India, creating advertisements addressing ”hard working, savings minded and economic class of people”. The advertisements were based on the blue collar feeling of hard work and the patriotic feeling lived on the era of post-independence. This lead 70% of the rural population to use the product, as these values were important for them. Also, as the majority of Lifebuoy's target included rural population, which was incapable of read in English, distinct colors, symbols and pictures were included, so that the consumers were able to distinguish it from the competitors and remained loyal to a single brand.

All these factors helped Lifebuoy to become the market leader during the early stages of the PLC. However it started to lose its position as other competitors entered the market and living conditions in India started to change. 3. Analyze the stages of Lifebuoy's PLC during the 20th century. Which factors contribute to move the brand from one stage to another?

During the 20th century and until late 1970's, Lifebuoy maintained the position of market leaders. The company was so dominant that the consumers would perceive any red soap as the brand Lifebuoy, fulfilling the dream of any brand manager. However as the growth phase proceeded and Lifebuoy was having huge profits, more and more competitors were attracted to the market to explore it, which completely changed the panorama in India. As new competitors identified new market niches in the soap industry consumers were confronted with more choices than they were used to, which lead many of them to try new products, creating a decrease in Lifebuoy sales. These factor marked the entering on the maturation phase for Lifebuoy's carbolic soap.

Also the appearance of colored television in India during the 1980's changed the way advertising was made, bringing...
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