Tribes and the Product Life Cycle
The product life cycle (PLC) is a familiar model in marketing and is used to describe the life of a product category. It is a model which can be helpful to understand where a product is now, where it is headed, and what to do about it. That being said, keep in mind that it is just a model and some product categories follow their own cycles.
Most applications of the PLC focus on individuals, but this is discusses it's relevancy for tribes.
The introduction stage is often focused on one product with limited places of distribution. Competition is often low, but the product suffers from low awareness. Tribes are ideal for product launch, because they run along the outskirts of mainstream culture looking for ways to stand out and feel special.
Learn as much as you can about the tribes you want to support, so that you can natively support their culture. Having a product that can deliver great features is nice, but don't forget to consider your product as a cultural object that can be used to build identity, embody stories, and support rituals. Involve tribal members in your product development program, and listen carefully to their feedback. Consider the tribes you support an extension of your organization. Give them the tools and help they need to act as ambassadors for your product.
The growth stage usually has more competition, and product versions. This naturally leads to more outlets and a race for market share. Tribes that were supported or built during the introduction stage act as advocates for your brand, adding to it's authenticity. If your product is a high engagement brand the tribe can help to lower perceived risk and educate newcomers. Keep in mind that you might be walking a tightrope with your tribes as your customer base grows. If the tribes grow too fast or their culture becomes too commercialized they may rebel.
The maturity phase usually has even more competition, and full product lines. The price is shifted towards defending market share, and making profit. As low engagement strategies become harder to defend, and easier to copy-cat, thinking about supporting tribes can be a doorway into building a higher engagement brand.
Does your product have a brand community? A brand community is a tribe that gathers around your brand. In that case it is increasingly important to give your brand community special attention that sets them apart, such as VIP treatment, collectors items, and special events.
The decline stage usually implies less of everything. The focus is on maintaining profitability. Common strategies during this phase is to find new uses for your product and new consumers to market to. That should imply new tribes. As your product is in mainstream decline it is becoming increasingly interesting material for tribes. This may open up for tribal re-appropriation of both use and meaning, such as is the case with the rebuilding of retro cars or computers.
I promise more practical examples in upcoming blog posts. For now, I would like to know if you have any questions, or additions?