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Competitive Strategy

Asia-Pacific Marketing Federation Certified Professional Marketer

Copyright Marketing Institute of Singapore


Introduction Sustainable competitive advantage (SCA) Sources of SCA Strategies for

Market Leaders Challengers Followers, and Nichers

Having a competitive advantage is necessary for a firm to compete in the market But what is more important is whether the competitive advantage is sustainable A firm must identify its position relative to the competition in the market By knowing if it is a leader, challenger, follower or nicher, it can adopt appropriate strategies to compete

Sustainable Competitive Advantage

A good strategist seeks not only to win the hill, but hold on to it. Subash Jain Sustaining competitive advantage requires erecting barriers against the competition Aakers suggested looking at the following:
How you compete Basis of competition Where you compete Whom you are competing against

Examples of SCA
For many years, Singapore Airlines were riding on its SCA of having the best in-flight service As more airlines improved their service and narrowed the gap, SIA sought other competitive advantages among which are
The most modern fleet Outstanding Service on the Ground A super entertainment system in its cabins Comfort in its First Class cabins at an unparallel level

Discuss whether the later initiatives had been sustainable

Sun Tze s defensive strategy

Do not assume the enemy will not come but be prepared for his coming Do not presume he will not attack, but instead make your own position unassailable.

Sun Tze s Offensive Strategies

Overt-offensive strategy
To knock out a business rival so as to take over his company To knock out a competing product so as to take over its market share

Covert-offensive strategy
Keep as low a profile as possible while making offensive moves

Strategies for Market Leaders

Market Leader s objectives: Expand the total market by
Finding new users Creating new uses, and Encouraging more usage

Protect its current market share by

Adopting defense strategies (see following slides)

Increase its market share

Note the relationship between market share and profitability

Which strategy to use?

Depends on your answer to the following: Is it worth fighting? Are you strong enough to fight? How strong is your defense? Do you have any choice but to fight?

Defense Strategy
A market leader should generally adopt a defense strategy Six commonly used defense strategies
Position Defense Mobile Defense Flanking Defense Contraction Defense Pre-emptive Defense Counter-Offensive Defense

Defense Strategy (cont d)

Position Defense Least successful of the defense strategies A company attempting a fortress defense will find itself retreating from line after line of fortification into shrinking product markets. Saunders (1987) e.g. Mercedes was using a position defense strategy until Toyota launched a frontal attack with its Lexus.

Defense Strategy (cont d)

Mobile Defense By market broadening and diversification For marketing broadening, there is a need to
Redefine the business (principle of objective), and Focus efforts on the competition (the principle of mass)

e.g. Legend Holdings, the top China PC maker Legend has announced a joint venture with AOL to broaden its business to provide Internet services in the mainland

Defense Strategy (cont d)

Flanking Defense: Secondary markets (flanks) are the weaker areas and prone to being attacked Pay attention to the flanks e.g. San Miguel introduced a flanking brand in the Philippines, Gold Eagle, as a defense against APB s Beerhausen

Defense Strategy (cont d)

Contraction Defense
Withdraw from the most vulnerable segments and redirect resources to those that are more defendable By planned contraction or strategic withdrawal e.g. India s TATA Group sold its soaps and detergents business units to Unilever in 1993

Defense Strategy (cont d)

Pre-emptive Defense
Detect potential attacks and attack the enemies first Let it be known how it will retaliate Product or brand proliferation is a form of preemptive defense e.g. Seiko has over 2,000 models

Defense Strategy (cont d)

Counter-Offensive Defense
Responding to competitors head-on attack by identifying the attacker s weakness and then launch a counter attack e.g. Toyota launched the Lexus to respond to Mercedes attack

Market Challenger Strategies

The market challengers strategic objective is to gain market share and to become the leader eventually How? By attacking the market leader By attacking other firms of the same size By attacking smaller firms

Market Challenger Strategies (cont d)

Types of Attack Strategies

Frontal attack Flank attack Encirclement attack Bypass attack Guerrilla attack

Frontal Attack
Seldom work unless
The challenger has sufficient fire-power (a 3:1 advantage) and staying power, and The challenger has clear distinctive advantage(s)

e.g. Japanese and Korean firms launched frontal attacks in various ASPAC countries through quality, price and low cost

Flank attack
Attack the enemy at its weak points or blind spots i.e. its flanks Ideal for challenger who does not have sufficient resources e.g. In the 1990s, Yaohan attacked Mitsukoshi and Seibu s flanks by opening numerous stores in overseas markets

Encirclement attack
Attack the enemy at many fronts at the same time Ideal for challenger having superior resources e.g. Seiko attacked on fashion, features, user preferences and anything that might interest the consumer

Bypass attack
By diversifying into unrelated products or markets neglected by the leader Could overtake the leader by using new technologies e.g. Pepsi use a bypass attack strategy against Coke in China by locating its bottling plants in the interior provinces

Guerrilla attack
By launching small, intermittent hit-and-run attacks to harass and destabilize the leader Usually use to precede a stronger attack e.g. airlines use short promotions to attack the national carriers especially when passenger loads in certain routes are low

Which Attack Strategy should a Challenger Choose? Use a combination of several strategies to improve market share over time

Market-Follower Strategies
Theodore Levitt in his article, Innovative Imitation argued that a product imitation strategy might be just as profitable as a product innovation strategy e.g. Product innovation--Sony Product-imitation--Panasonic

Market-Follower Strategies (cont d)

Each follower tries to bring distinctive advantages to its target market--location, services, financing Four broad follower strategies:
Counterfeiter (which is illegal) Cloner e.g. the IBM PC clones Imitator e.g. car manufacturers imitate the style of one another Adapter e.g. many Japanese firms are excellent adapters initially before developing into challengers and eventually leaders

Market-Nicher Strategies
Smaller firms can avoid larger firms by targeting smaller markets or niches that are of little or no interest to the larger firms e.g. Logitech--mice Microbrewers--special beers

Market-Nicher Strategies (cont d)

Nichers must create niches, expand the niches and protect them
e.g. Nike constantly created new niches--cycling, walking, hiking, cheerleading, etc

What is the major risk faced by nichers?

Market niche may be attacked by larger firms once they notice the niches are successful

Multiple Niching
[A] firm should `stick to its niching but not necessarily to its niche. That is why multiple niching is preferable to single niching. By developing strength in two or more niches the company increases its chances for survival. Philip Kotler

Example of Nicher: Challenger Superstore

Challenger Superstore is a discount retailer of computers and accessories It opened its first overseas store in Bangkok at a cost of 90 million baht (S$3.7 million) In October 2000, it closed its Bangkok store after failing to pay rent amounting to about 6 million baht Discussion: Why do you think Challenger failed in Thailand?