Be Wary of Cannibalization When Launching New Products

Last week, Marka and the FEI tribe discussed strategies for entering a new product category. This week, they discuss the concept of product “cannibalization” and how it should play into a company’s overall product-entry strategy. Remember, fire = print.

Lucy stood in front of the FEI tribe. “Today we’re going to talk about cannibalization,” she said.

Zoot jumped behind his chair. “No! Not those nasty Cyclopses! I’m never going back to that island again!”

“I’m talking about cannibalization of our existing products,” Lucy said. “Before developing new products or product line extensions, we should determine whether this product has the potential to detract from our base of existing sales, and, if so, to what extent.”

“It’s not necessarily a bad idea to enter a new product that will compete with another FEI product,” Marka suggested. “If we’re going to lose sales to someone, we might as well lose them to ourselves. Because Lucy’s matches are a high-value product that allows us to capitalize on a distinct market opportunity, we should move forward with entering this product while remaining aware of its potential to cannibalize sales from our more established offerings.”

“But we want to avoid haphazardly entering new product lines or categories that don’t offer the value of Lucy’s matches,” Numo cautioned. “Developing, launching and distributing a new product involves research, development and inventory costs. There’s little point to pouring a lot of time and resources into a new product that doesn’t offer any value beyond what’s offered by current products.”

“At the same time, becoming too paranoid about cannibalization can backfire,” Marka noted. “Remember Pegasus Horse-drawn Chariots? It refused to enter the winged chariot market because management was afraid that if the company offered this new product, it would cannibalize the well-established horse-drawn chariot business.”

“It’s been years since I’ve seen a horse-drawn chariot,” Zoot mused.

T.J. Tedesco is a sales growth, business strategy, marketing and PR consultant operating at the intersection of clear vision, compelling content and effective outreach practices. For nearly two decades, T.J. has been an independent consultant and sales growth team leader. Previously, he sold commercial printing, graphic arts machinery and supplies, and finishing and bindery services. T.J. helps North American companies with content development, Web and print design leadership, nurture marketing programs, sales coaching, sales team alignment and business strategy. Since 1996, T.J. has worked with more than 100 clients on retainer, 80 percent in the graphic arts industry. T.J. is author of "Win Top-of-Mind Positioning," "Playbook for Selling Success in the Graphic Arts Industry," "Fire! How Marketing Got Hot," "Direct Mail Pal" and four more books published by PIA. He can be reached at (301) 404-2244 or
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