The 4 Categories of the BCG-Matrix

Cash Cows

Cash cows are units with high market share in a slow-growing industry. These units typically generate cash in excess of the amount of cash needed to maintain the business. They are regarded as staid and boring, in a “mature” market, and every corporation would be thrilled to own as many as possible. They are to be “milked” continuously with as little investment as possible, since such investment would be wasted in an industry with low growth.

Strategies for cash cows: The cash cows are the most stable for any business and hence the strategy generally includes retention of the market share. As the market is not growing, acquisition is less and retention is high. Thus customer satisfaction programs, loyalty programs and other such promotional methods form the core of the marketing plan for a cash cow product or business unit.


Dogs, or more charitably called pets, are units with low market share in a mature, slow-growing industry. These units typically “break even”, generating barely enough cash to maintain the business’s market share. Though owning a break-even unit provides the social benefit of providing jobs and possible synergies that assist other business units, from an accounting point of view such a unit is worthless, not generating cash for the company. They depress a profitable company’s return on assets ratio, used by many investors to judge how well a company is being managed. Dogs, it is thought, should be sold off.

Strategies for Dogs: Depending on the amount of cash which is already invested in this quadrant, the company can either divest the product altogether or it can revamp the product through rebranding / innovation / adding features etc. However, moving a dog towards a star or a cash cow is very difficult. It can be moved only to the question mark region where again the future of the product is unknown. Thus in cases of Dog products, divestment strategy is used.

Question Marks

Question marks (also known as problem child) are growing rapidly and thus consume large amounts of cash, but because they have low market shares they do not generate much cash. The result is a large net cash consumption. A question mark has the potential to gain market share and become a star, and eventually a cash cow when the market growth slows. If the question mark does not succeed in becoming the market leader, then after perhaps years of cash consumption it will degenerate into a dog when the market growth declines. Question marks must be analyzed carefully in order to determine whether they are worth the investment required to grow market share.

Strategies for Question marks: As they are new entry products with high growth rate, the growth rate needs to be capitalized in such a manner that question marks turn into high market share products. New Customer acquisition strategies are the best strategies for converting Question marks to Stars or Cash cows. Furthermore, time to time market research also helps in determining consumer psychology for the product as well as the possible future of the product and a hard decision might have to be taken if the product goes into negative profitability.


Stars are units with a high market share in a fast-growing industry. The hope is that starsbecome the next cash cows. Sustaining the business unit’s market leadership may require extra cash, but this is worthwhile if that’s what it takes for the unit to remain a leader. When growth slows, stars become cash cows if they have been able to maintain their category leadership, or they move from brief stardom to dogdom.

Strategies for Stars: All types of marketing, sales promotion and advertising strategies are used for Stars. This is because in cash cow, already these strategies have been used and they have resulted in the formation of a cash cow. Similarly in Stars, because of the high competition and rising market share, the concentration and investment needs to be high in marketing activities so as to increase and retain market share.