Marketing is meant to defy time. Like humans want immortality, brand managers want their brands to be timeless and escape the forces of time. The PLC hypothesizes that like humans; products also pass through different stages and eventually die. For humans life itself is a depreciating force. Products on the other hand depreciate in utility and cease in value for customers. Consider products like typewriters and VCRs that have become relics of the past. B&W televisions, cameras, and home sewing machines are on the brink of being pushed out of the market. New one to join this league is Encyclopaedia Britannica (EB) which has announced its decision to stop publication of its print version.
Encyclopaedia Britannica has been an institution for over two centuries. It started its life as a set of books which came in gold lettered and leather bound volumes. These were initially sold by salesmen directly door to door to customers. In theUSthe price of a set containing 32 uniquely bound signature volumes has been $1400. For a very long period of time, Britannica held monopoly position as a reference source for authoritative information on virtually all conceivable topics.
Presently the company has about 4000 copies of the Encyclopaedia left out which will be available to potential buyers till the stock lasts. EB performed two functions: technical and symbolic. Technically it was valued for the knowledge it contained in its volumes and people could easily refer to it to satisfy their need for cognitive stimulation. One could easily access authentic information on subjects that typically make the knowledge universe.
Besides its technical utility, for a large middle class EB was a cherished possession which people displayed in their living rooms. Like other markers of classes, EB acquired status of a marker of a distinct educated and refined class. People signify who they are and where they belong in social hierarchy by their possessions like a car or mansion. EB held its position as a signifier of class hierarchy based on education and culture. EB in a way has been both a possession and process.
Time defines and redefines the meaning of objects and spaces. Living rooms have transformed into spaces of social engagement and entertainment rather than debate and dialogues. Status markers like expensive couch, chandelier, and paintings which reflect ‘arrival’ have snatched space from books and bookshelves. The conversations touch periphery rather than the core and are used as a device to negotiate time in an environment made to give ‘good time’. .
Technology contributes in its own way. Books and libraries now have to compete with Internet. Books are taking e form and information is just a click away and often for free. For instance Wikipedia is a user created reference stock which has democratized knowledge and made it place independent. Reasonably authentic information can be accessed from anywhere just by making a couple of clicks on the mobile. The authenticity factor which positioned EB on a higher altar has gradually eroded as web based information has gained authenticity.
The discontinuance of print version marks both the end and the beginning. No wonder the antiquated copies would become collector’s delight in times to come. People do cherish old cars, pens and furniture for their association with the forgone ‘time’. The product would assume a new value dimension for a select customer group.