How true is it that we can make the competition irrelevant?
Currently available products have underserved values which when appropriated in your product can propel its revenues to surprisingly extra-ordinary heights.
Q: In the last two Fridays, your Marketing Rx column was all about competition. The first was about competitive attitude. What followed was about how this attitude gets translated to competitive behavior. Why this concern over competitive marketing?
Some four or five years ago, we attended a seminar where you and Josiah Go spoke about and showed us how to make the competition irrelevant. So why should we now bother about competitive attitude and competitive behavior when these can be made irrelevant?
We have to tell you though that while your explanations and examples were clear, application was hard. This was particularly true with the idea of uncovering and creating “value innovation.” Researching and identifying an “uncontested market space” or segment was relatively easy. But how to convert a product non-user into a user was difficult. In our two attempts, it went from difficult to very difficult.
Is this why you are now back into competitive marketing? We seem to recall you referred to that market as the “contested market space.”
A: You raise a question we’re often asked but have not had the time and occasion to answer. We’re thankful for your creating that time and occasion. But we’re not sure if most of our readers are clear about what exactly you are talking about. So, we’ll provide the “missing” information to give just a quick but clear sketch of the total picture.
The 2008 seminar you referred to was on the Insead Professor W. Chan Kim’s “Blue Ocean Strategy.” It was the year when the senior MRx-er joined the No. 1 marketing and sales learning event company of Josiah Go’s Mansmith and Fielders Inc.
In the Amazon.com, the Blue Ocean Strategy book was No. 1 in its 2005 and 2006 chart selling more than 1 million copies. Fortune magazine positioned the book as among “the top 10 business concepts of all
At Insead, the world’s second largest business school, Professor Chan Kim had his own research center, the Blue Ocean Institute.
We were a bit amused at how you remembered the Blue Ocean Strategy book more by its sub-title than its main title. The sub-title in full said: “How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant.” You were correct in saying that the first major portion of the Blue Ocean Strategy, “How to Create Uncontested Market Space,” was relatively easy or easier than the second part.
The second portion is about unlocking the “value innovation” that would get you to effectively participate in a targeted uncontested or product non-user segment. Unlocking that value innovation is the same as saying that you have uncovered what would motivate a product non-user to become a user. Finding out that motivator and owning it is what will “Make the Competition Irrelevant.” Your twice failed experience in unlocking this motivator echoes the experience of other companies who have tried applying the Blue Ocean Strategy.
But this is not the reason why we’ve been dedicating our Marketing Rx column more to competitive marketing than to Blue Ocean marketing. Incidentally, Professor Chan Kim likes to refer to competitive marketing as “red ocean strategy.” The ocean has turned red from the blood of the slain brands. So, you can say that Marketing Rx has been much more into Red Ocean marketing than Blue Ocean.
It’s a piece of marketing reality that’s behind our giving more space and attention to competitive marketing. To start with, “value innovation” is not a monopoly of the yet-to-be-discovered non-user or unserved product. The many currently available products have underserved values which when appropriated in your product can propel its revenues to surprisingly extra-ordinary heights. Take for example, Del Monte’s pineapple juice and its sluggish sales until product development discovered the fruit’s L-Carnitine content that’s excellent for weight control. When relaunched as “Fit ’n Right,” the pineapple juice’s steep sales curve quickly made it the company’s top brand. Or consider Bayer Aspirin’s discovery that at low dose, its daily intake can dramatically reduce the risk of a heart attack. That’s because of the low dose’s loosening effect on blood clotting. That discovered health benefit even made it as a Time magazine cover. The revenue raising consequence was unprecedented.
A second and more important marketing reality to consider is that while an unlocked value innovation will lead to market success, that successful value innovation will immediately invite imitations. There are only few product categories with legal protection against imitators. There are none for services. Once quality imitations come, the value innovation quickly loses its high revenue productivity. The Harvard emeritus professor of economics and business history, David Landes, formulated the economic law predicting this eventuality. Professor Landes said: “There is an axiom in economics that says: “Every situation bears the seed of its own reversal.” This is the law of nemesis that says nothing good lasts indefinitely, because others will want to share in it.” So, the lower the barrier to imitation, the shorter the life of a blue ocean uncontested market segment becomes.
All these should not imply that you should not pursue a blue ocean strategy. Blue ocean marketing can grow your business. So, you should be good in both blue ocean marketing and red ocean. But because the usual marketing reality is more contested than uncontested you should pay more time and attention to the latter. It’s your current primary revenue source and revenue growth source.
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