The social lives of products: Analyzing product demography for management theory and practice

Glenn R. Carroll, Olga M. Khessina, David G. McKendrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the centrality of products in many strategic and managerial theoretical frameworks, little is known systematically about how and why specific products come and go from markets. We argue that narrowing this gap will likely enhance management theory, and we propose that research on product demography-the social lives of products-is a promising way to proceed. For organizing various theoretical ideas used in prior studies, we offer a classification framework. It defines four broad theoretical perspectives on product demography: Market rationality, firm rationality, organizational bounded rationality, and institutional rationality. We also outline an approach to product demography that studies empirically the rates of product launch, growth, and withdrawal using stochastic models and data on all products ever appearing in bounded industrial domains. Finally, we discuss the challenges presented by such a fragmented approach to research on product demography and propose a generic research program intended to avoid stagnation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-203
Number of pages47
JournalAcademy of Management Annals
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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