The product life cycle stipulates that every product goes through a cycle involving the introduction stage, growth stage, maturity stage, and decline stage. Over the years, various products have experienced considerable decline and examples include cassette tapes, desk top computers, and photographic film. Various factors can lead to the decline in the popularity of a product and these include changes in consumer tastes, availability of equally viable or more viable substitutes, and changes in consumer expectations and needs (Kotler & Gary, 2001). While this list is not exhaustive, it offers a wider perception as to why popular products may decline in demand. Consumer tastes may either be shaped by new trends or the way a product is marketed and branded. The introduction of the compact disk (CD) in the early 1980s saw the emergence of a new trend in terms storage and carrying of music. This led to a steady decline in the popularity of audio cassette tapes. By 1991 the CD became a music storage and carrier device of choice. The changes in consumer choice were influenced by the trendy nature of the CD in terms of its smaller size, greater dynamism, and extremely low risk of damage by the CD player. Contributing to changes in consumer tastes was the attractive and widespread marketing the CDs received at the expense of the audiocassette tapes.
The availability of equally viable or more viable substitutes can also contribute to the decline of a popular product. If there are substitutes in the market which have the same capability or more capability compared to a popular product, then the demand of the popular product will likely decline especially if the prices are the same or the price of the substitute is lower. According to the IDC (International Data Corporation), the demand of desk top PCs in Europe declined by 19% in the second quarter of 2011 (Saran, 2011). This is a reflection of a wider picture globally where consumers are increasingly opting for substitutes such as laptops, tablets, ipads, and smart phones. It helps that there is no big price differences between a top performing desk top PC and the substitutes outlined above. Changes in consumer expectations and needs could be the reason behind the decline in popularity of photographic films. Consumers are now more in need of digital photography because of its versatility of use including easy upload of photos on the internet especially social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.