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Creating Blue Oceans: How to Make Your Competition Irrelevant

September 26, 2017

Marketing Unraveled: in this series we break down modern marketing strategies and techniques through examples so that you can elevate your efforts.

Let’s talk about Nintendo Wii. How many of us were in awe of it when it launched in 2006? The innovative gaming console was pitted against state-of-the-art PlayStation and Xbox 360 and yet won over market share for its ease of use, accessibility, and affordability. With the heart of its concept lying in value innovation, the Wii did away with the DVD functionality that comes with every other gaming console and introduced a wireless gaming stick differentiating itself from the market offering. Nintendo launched the Nintendo Wii as well as the Nintendo DS keeping in mind the Blue Ocean strategy by pursuing value innovation when it was losing market share to its larger competitors prevailed. In the end, the Wii beat its competitors, opened a market of its own with its new features and affordable price point, and regained its lost market share and holding the greatest lifetime market share (41%) out of the three major video game consoles. So, how can you make your competition irrelevant? The Blue Ocean strategy will be a step towards getting the answer.

SWIMMING IN THE BLUE OCEAN OF BUSINESS

Over a decade ago, the ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ took the world by storm and still holds value today. Developed by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgneby, pre-eminent management thinkers from INSEAD. The professors together conducted a decade-long study of 150 strategic moves spanning 30 industries over 100 years. Through their book and their teachings, the professors give you ways on how you can crush your competition by creating an entirely new territory with your business practices. The strategy can be applied to various sectors and stay relevant to various businesses. The Blue Ocean strategy challenges everything you know about strategic success and gives you a systematic approach to making competition irrelevant.“Our study shows that blue ocean strategy is particularly needed when supply exceeds demand in a market. This situation is applying to more and more industries today and will be even more prevalent in the future.” Kim said in an article for Forbes.

RED OCEAN VS BLUE OCEAN

So, according to this theory, you can say that the business world is divided into two kinds of markets — the red ocean and the blue ocean. The red ocean consists of current industries, competition, and boundaries, where the rules are well-defined and competitors strive to gain market share of the existing demand between the rivals. As this market gets crowded, the prospect of profit reduces or nullifies. Blue oceans come into the second side of the market, aiming to make competition relevant by tapping into a completely new market space and tapping into that demand. Companies aiming for the blue ocean tap into value innovation in their approach so that they can benchmark the competition. This may bring about imitators, but solves the issue at hand. With the blue ocean approach, organizations don’t focus on beating the competition but adding value to the buyer and thus, opening up an uncontested market space.

LOOKING FOR THE BLUE OCEAN

So, how do you start out on building your strategy? This 6 path formulation plan will trudge you in the journey ahead. Let’s get you started.

  1. Look for alternative industries: A company competes not only with the other firms in its own industry but also with companies in those other industries that produce alternative products or services. The first path of formulating your strategy is looking for these alternative industries. For instance, cold-pressed juice brand Raw Pressery competes with regular juice brands, pro-biotic drinks, and health drinks. However, not all may treat them as competitors.
  2. Look across strategic groups: Strategic groups are a group of companies within an industry that pursue a similar strategy. Strategic groups can generally be ranked in a rough hierarchical order built on two dimensions: price and performance. Each jump in price tends to bring a corresponding jump in some dimensions of performance. The key to creating a blue ocean across existing strategic groups is to break out of this narrow tunnel vision by understanding which factors determine customers’ decisions to trade up or down from one group to another.
  3. Look across a chain of buyers: In most industries, competitors converge around a common definition of who the target buyer is. In reality, though, there is a chain of “buyers” who are directly or indirectly involved in the buying decision. Thus blue ocean strategy is formulated by finding out who is the chain of buyers in your industry and which buyer group does your industry typically focus on? And if you shift the focus from one buyer group to another, how can you unlock new value?
  4. Look across complementary product and service offerings: Not all products and services work in a vacuum. Untapped value is often hidden in complementary products and services. The key is to define the total solution buyers seek when they choose a product or service. A simple way to do so is to think about what happens before, during, and after your product is used. Work on the pain points in those areas, and you will have your plan ahead.
  5. Look at the functional-emotional orientation of an industry: the Emotional appeal is based on emotional utility a buyer receives in the consumption or use of a product or service. Functional Appeal to buyers refers to the functional utility buyers receive from a business or product/service based on basic calculations of utility and price. Competition in an industry tends to converge on one of two possible basis of an appeal. By understanding your industry focus on functionality or emotional appeal, you can either compete on emotional appeal by stripping functional elements or compete on functionality by adding emotional elements.
  6. Look across time: Trends play a major role in every industry. Whether it’s the emergence of new technologies or major regulatory changes, managers tend to focus on projecting the trend itself. By looking across time — from the value a market delivers today to the value it might deliver tomorrow — your company can actively shape the future and lay claim to a new blue ocean.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The Blue Ocean strategy is based on a decade-long study of companies and industries over 100 years and is applicable to business across the board. While businesses have changed since the time the strategy has come about — it still stays relevant in the times today.
  • Blue Ocean is based on a strategy of differentiation AND low cost. It’s not an either/or. Both must be pursued to create a marketplace of your own. It aims to make the competition irrelevant and not outperform the competition, thus creating an uncontested market space.
  • Through various tools and methods, you can apply this strategy to your business and eventually turn non-customers into customers. With the strategy, you can understand the commercial viability of your ideas and refine it.

So, whether you’re starting off a blog for your business or planning on take down another PlayStation of its kind, applying the methodologies of the Blue Ocean strategy can change the way your business works and lead your brand into the sunset. Just watch out for the sharks along the way…

Stay tuned for more on Marketing Unraveled…

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Natasha Sahjwani

I’m a marketer, writer and diver. I live for my next adventure and munch on the best of food and make a living somewhere along the way.

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