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What is Perceived Obsolescence? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Perceived obsolescence is all around us. And most of us fall victim to it in one way or another at some point. Find out in this lesson what this term refers to and what some famous examples of it are.

What Is Perceived Obsolescence?

Say you run into a seller who says, ''Hey, I've got a bridge to sell you. It's basically the same as the one built last year, which works perfectly but is now outdated because I said so. The new one is a sparkly red color, instead of last year's vomit green, and it's one inch wider than the one you bought before. If you don't buy the new bridge, you're nothing! The Jones' next door bought the new version, so shouldn't you too?''

What is going on here? A case of perceived obsolescence in action. This is when a buyer believes they need an updated version of a product even though theirs is working just fine. Let's go over examples of this in this lesson.

Planned Obsolescence

But first, don't get perceived obsolescence confused with planned obsolescence. There is some overlap, but they are not the same exact thing. Planned obsolescence refers to a strategy a company employs to purposefully make a product outdated or non-functional within a set period of time, so you have to buy a new one.

A good example of this would be limiting the lifespan of a light bulb not because technology can't make one that lasts longer, but because if the company limits it to only a small number of hours, you'll have to keep buying more and more! Ka-ching! This is a real thing.

Planned obsolescence also relies on using cleverly planned-out marketing strategies to make it seem like an old product is obsolete even when it's really not. In other words, it's all about perceived obsolescence.

Examples of Perceived Obsolescence

So what are some additional examples of perceived obsolescence? Well, Apple and other smartphone manufacturers are masters at making some people believe they must dump the $1000 phone they got last year for a new one this year because it is made of a different material, is slightly bigger, or might have a slightly better camera.

That phone you bought last year, is so last year! So if you want to look cool, hip, trendy and successful then here, get this newer but more expensive and virtually unchanged one instead. All of this, while your 'old' phone continues to work perfectly well. You think you need one because your old one is outdated when it's really not. This is perceived obsolescence.

But let's not pick on smartphone manufacturers. They're an easy target. What about car manufacturers? That car you got last year? There's a newer model of it that comes out every single year. It looks the same. It drives basically the same. It may have a little bit more bling on it. But it's essentially the same car. But if you want to be able to brag to your neighbors that you've got a brand new car that is better than their model, then you should get the newest model available. If you want to seem like you can afford the newest things, that you've made it, why would you want last year's model taking up valuable space in your garage?

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