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Management. Do Brands Have Finite Lives?


This is one of the most debated issues among marketing professionals, both scholars and practitioners across the globe. Many research studies have been done in the area and different view points have evolved. The concept brand/ brand name is a vital element in the marketing strategy of all firms. The survival and existence of a firm, in fact, depends solely upon the success of its brand in the market. Brands are everywhere around us. Many of them are successful and rests are facing failure. But, how long successful brands can retain its journey over its competitors is always a perplexing question.

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Is product Life Cycle same for all brands?

Product Life Cycle (PLC) is a universally known concept in marketing. But, it is not a unanimously accepted one. Of course, PLC theory can work well in biological systems such as human life. But, how far it will be successful in product life is to be experienced for each and every product. Because, the theories of PLC cannot be applied as such to brands. It requires little bit of changes in line with the change in the nature, of product. In other words, no single pattern of PLC is suggestible for two similar brands. For example, the PLC theory argues that products have a limited life and all products pass through a distinct number of stages. The theory further says that every brand has a definite end in its life in the market. That argument often seems to be correct in the modern competitive market where old ones are thrown out of the market by new ones. But, that does not mean that all the brands in the market alone pave way for the new one. Another premise of PLC concept with which marketing practitioners are unhappy is that different strategies are demanded at various stages of life cycle. As a result, many PLC patterns are in operation, which itself is an indication that there is no universally accepted PLC. With the market experience, even a layman can argue that these theories cannot have any relevance with regard to the products which have completed 100 + years (long years then expected). The main point which is raised against the generalization of PLC concept in marketing is that if a large number of PLC pattern exist, no marketer can recognize at what stage his/her brand stand at a certain point of time. Nariman Dhalla and Sonia Yuseph wrote in the Harvard Business Review nearly 30 years ago, “the PLC is a dependent variable which is determined by marketing actions; it is not an independent variable to which companies should adapt their marketing programs.” (Marketing Debate: Do Brands Have Finite Lives).

This statement clearly observes that there are no hard and fast rules in determining the pattern of PLC and its application in marketing. The pattern is determined by the marketing action and nothing to do in advance to make it adaptable to marketing environment. Supporting this statement many successful brands around us have celebrated 100 + year birthday and still continuing their journey in the minds of consumers. (Kotler and Keller 2009).

Do brands have finite lives?

All biological systems can be described by PLC theory. They all pass through a number of definite stages ranging from birth to death, because product’s courses of development and life expectancy are genetically predetermined and thus uncontrollable. But, unlike living things, brands do not have a finite end. Whether brands have a finite end or not is a matter of brand management and intensity of competition. A well managed brand and having good brand equity is not likely to loose the market in the near future. The exact number of life expectancy can not be explored from the researches, because brands do not necessarily have a finite end. In this context, marketing professionals are unanimous in one argument that well positioned and well managed brands can live forever, and is not expected to thrown out of the market. The following statement “American Express, Budweiser, Camel, Coca-Cola, Gillette, Western Union, and Wells-Fargo, for instance, are still going strong in their respective categories after 100+ years.” (Marketing Debate: Do Brands Have Finite Lives).At this juncture, one cannot say that brands are expected to end their lives after a stipulated period of time/years. There are no supporting arguments in favour of the statement that brands have finite lives. “If the right decisions, the right resources and the right imagination are brought to bear, brands can renew continuously and outlive their creators.” (Brand Immortality. 2008).

Is there any reason for brands to become obsolete?

Apart from the so-called set back of brand as a result of PLC, there are many reasons attributable to the failure of brands in the market. Stiff competition, improper designing and implementation of brands and ineffective brand management are some of the important reasons for brands to become out-dated. Proper care and attention towards competition, maintaining good brand equity, and sound brand strategies can solve the problem to a great extent.


The experienced marketers believe that a well managed brand can live forever. No theory of PLC will affect the brand equity of such brands. Brand equity is something which the product earns out of its value to its customers. The PLC concept is more relevant theoretically and very little application in practice. Naturally, what was studied from the books are rarely seen in the real life business situations. If the value to the customers persists, so is its brand equity. If the right kind of brands are designed, implemented and managed, they can survive any competition. This is what the world is experiencing today from the living examples of Nokia, Sony, and Apple and so on and so forth.


Marketing Debate: Do Brands Have Finite Lives. [online]. 2008. Web.

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KOTLER, Philip., and KELLER, Kelvin Lane. (2009). Crafting The Brand Positioning. Web.

Brand Immortality. (2008). [online]. IPA. Web.

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