This is going to sound like the beginning of a bad joke: What do you get when you cross product life cycles, TVs, and running? In essence, you get a way to relate the market for your favorite consumer electronics (TVs!) with different aspects of your own life (running!).

The Life of a Product

Before I get into how this all fits together, I need to give a short business school primer about product life cycles. All products go through what is known as the “product life cycle”, which maps the rough trajectory of a product from its Introduction to the market and on through Growth, Maturity, and Decline. What happens when an industry reaches maturity but isn’t ready to fade away? How can it avoid the dreaded Decline? The industry must innovate and create a Product Extension, which adds a new value or technology to give consumers a reason to upgrade to a better version of the product.

Now on to the part about TVs. I cover the television market for gap intelligence so I spend a lot of time looking at TVs, writing about TVs, and thinking about TVs. Like all other products, televisions follow the product life cycle. If you look at the above chart, you can probably guess where TVs fall on the cycle pretty easily. The TV market in the US has been at a mature point for quite a while: most households in the US that want a TV have one. But TVs have also been part of the consumer electronic ecosystem for many decades and continue to remain popular. That continued demand exists because TV manufacturers have been able to innovate and create new product extension phases.

The television industry has gone through several such phases over the decades: the introduction of color TVs, wireless remotes, plasma, LCD, HD, larger screens, Smart functions, 3D, and so on. A few years ago the new kid on the block was Ultra HD resolution. This year TV manufacturers are adding High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology to their products. Each time an exciting new aspect is added to TVs, it is rolled out as a premium feature and is only available in high-end models for an equally high-end price. For example, when curved TV displays first arrived on the scene in 2014, they carried a $300-$500 premium over their flat-panel counterparts. But over time as the new product extension phase grows toward its own maturity point, prices for new features tend to drop. This year, a curved display only has a $200 premium over a comparable flat-panel model. As new technologies become more affordable, they also become more ubiquitous until the TV market is awash in models bearing the new features and a new extension phase must begin.

Run Dre, Run!

All right, but what does this have to do with your life, you may ask? I found myself asking the same question recently while I was ruminating on various applications of the product life cycle. It seems to me that the principle can be applied to a great many things outside of consumer goods. Maybe your current level of education served you well up until a certain point when you decided to go back to school. Or perhaps you never liked reading until you stumbled upon a great new author who reminded you about all the great things that can be found in books.

In my case, the product life cycle closely aligns with my running habits. I had been a runner for years, mostly by myself but occasionally with others and never in any organized way. Then one day I signed up for a 5K with some friends. Something small, no big deal, and there was chocolate at the finish line. Neat! That was fun! You could say that I was in the introductory phase of my running life cycle. In my racing growth phase, I signed up for more 5Ks and continued to have fun. But I reached the maturity phase quickly when I began to get bored.

I was faced with a choice: I could accept my declining interest in organized runs or I could think about what else might be out there and try something new instead. So I did what TV manufacturers do when they anticipate a slowdown in TV sales: I added a new feature and ran a half marathon with my brothers. I had a blast and another extension of the cycle was created. In order to keep my interest up, I continue to seek out new challenges, including the addition of trail running and training for a marathon.

Looking back, I was able to map the changes in my running patterns to the same life cycle patterns shown in the TV industry. By the time a new feature reaches maturity, leading manufacturers are already rolling out the next big thing that will create a new arc of growth for the industry. New features lead to renewed enthusiasm from consumers, which ideally leads to new television purchases and the cycle of life continues. Similarly, by the time we become bored with the status quo, many of us search for new challenges and experiences to keep us engaged and excited about what lies ahead.

How can the product life cycle be applied to your life? Maybe you have an exciting new extension phase just ahead!