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This paper argues that the usage of the "time" variable as a convenient explanatory variable on the horizontal axis of the product life cycle graph has diverted attention from a thorough analysis of the factors which influence the shape and length of the PLC. The paper addresses the issues of definition of "product" and "product life" as well as reviewing existing commentry on curve shape as a precursor to exmining the relevant issues relating to the PLC shape and length. Drawing on the body of insight provided by sales forecasting and diffusion theory as well as the standard PLC literature this paper endeavours to present a clearer understanding of the factors which truly explain the PLC shape and length utilising four broad sets of factors, viz. product characteristics, marketing strategies employed, external environmental factors and market-related factors. It contends that the explanation of the PLC shape and length is found not merely in analysing the four broad sets of factors, but perhaps more importantly in the various interactions between these sets of factors. In doing so, it refutes the notion of the PLC as being time dependent per se and reemphasises the strategic role of management in affecting changes over the life cycle.
Meenaghan, J., O'Sullivan, P.: The shape and length of the product life cycle. Irish Marketing Review, Vol. 1, Spring, 1986, pp.83-102.