One challenge for any business is that a product has a life within a market and that life has a limitation. It may be that the time frame of that life is substantial but there will be a limit.
Addressing the decline of a product can be managed in many ways but one of the less frequently employed is the alternative market strategy.
Alternative markets take many guises, from geography through alternative uses, and examples are readily available once you start to consider them as such.
Relatively few businesses have a defined export strategy but that can allow you to deploy the same technical skills and knowledge. You will have significant marketing and possibly design work to enter such new markets – what works as a marketing campaign in the UK almost certainly won’t work in another country, even an English speaking one
Export markets can extend the life of a product to a really significant degree; many years after the decline of the western European market for the non-smart phone, those same phones were highly prized in emerging markets such as Africa.
Alternative uses for a product are sometimes harder to recognise; if you are not embedded in the history or knew the product before the use you now see you may not be aware of the transition. I watched a TV program about an early 20th century hospital where one of the surgeons adopted an early model vacuum cleaner for use as a suction device!
Listerine was developed as a surgical antiseptic, and an article from 1888 recommends Listerine “for sweaty feet, and soft corns, developing between the toes.” Over the course of the next century, it was marketed as a refreshing additive to cigarettes, a cure for the common cold, and as a dandruff treatment. But it was in the 1920s that the powerful, germ-killing liquid finally landed on its most lucrative use as a magical cure for bad breath.
Viagra was originally conceived as a treatment for hypertension, angina, and other symptoms of heart disease. But Phase I clinical trials revealed that while the drug wasn’t great at treating what it was supposed to treat, male test subjects were experiencing a rather unexpected side effect: erections. A few years later, in 1998, the drug took U.S. markets by storm as a treatment for penile dysfunction and became an overnight success. It now rakes in an estimated $1.9 billion dollars a year.
Brandy started off as a byproduct of transporting wine. About 900 years ago, merchants would essentially boil the water off of large quantities of wine in order to both transport it more easily, and save on customs taxes, which were levied by volume.
Coca-Cola was originally invented as an alternative to morphine addiction, and to treat headaches and relieve anxiety. Coke’s inventor, John Pemberton — a Confederate veteran of the Civil War who himself suffered from a morphine addiction — first invented a sweet, alcoholic drink infused with coca leaves for an extra kick. He called it Pemberton’s French Wine Coca. It would be another two decades before that recipe was honed, sweetened, carbonated and, eventually, marketed into what it is today: the most popular soda in the world.
Play-Doh, was first invented in the 1930s by a soap manufacturer named Cleo McVickers, who thought he’d hit upon a fantastic wallpaper cleaner. It wasn’t for another twenty years that McVicker’s son, Joseph, repurposed it as clay for pre-schoolers and called it Play-Doh, a product that remains wildly popular among the under-5 crowd today.