Some products in a portfolio can be described as "The Walking Dead"

Some products in a portfolio can be described as “The Walking Dead”

02 November, 2022 2 min read
product portfolio, product management, differentiation, value proposition, strategy

In the product portfolio of a typical mature and typically successful brand you are likely to find one or a few products that I call “The Walking Dead”.

These products may have become increasingly un-differentiated, their entire product category might not even be that attractive as a business case anymore, pouring in money to increase their intrinsic value is not expected to provide a reasonable ROI compared to other investment opportunities…

…however: the parent brand keeps them around because it feels compelled to maintain a foothold in the category due to historical reasons, its own pride in being a historically premium provider of these products, as a deterrent to small-fry competitors, and sometimes because it can still sell these undifferentiated product at an (undeserved) markup purely due to the halo effect of its entire parent brand.

In such a case, the company behind the parent brand is likely to label those products and their overarching product category as “strategic”.

Labeling the products “strategic” doesn’t magically make them any less unattractive or less of a hassle to have to sell compared to other opportunities, and it also doesn’t magically reduce the amount of distraction they cause to the organization.

Product portfolio management requires the ability to make tough decisions, but this can only be done when you don’t let a product category stagnate until you have no other options but to keep it around for all of the above reasons.