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Foundations of strategy. Chapter 4: The Nature & Sources of Competitive Advantage. Team 5 Andrea Brandt Vanessa Gomez Rachele Reagan Allison Schmidt. Competitive advantage.

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foundations of strategy

Foundations of strategy

Chapter 4: The Nature & Sources of Competitive Advantage

Team 5

Andrea Brandt

Vanessa Gomez

Rachele Reagan

Allison Schmidt

competitive advantage
Competitive advantage
  • Competitive advantage- when 2 or more firms compete within the same market, one firms posses a competitive advantage over its rival when it earns or has the potential to earn a persistently higher rate of profit
  • However, competitive advantage doesn’t always mean superior profit; so firms forgo current profit in favor of investment in market share, technology, customer loyalty or other endeavors
  • In the long run, competition eliminates differences in profitability between competing firms but external and internal changes can create short-term opportunities for creating an advantage
external sources of change
External sources of change
  • For an external change to create competitive advantage the change must have differential effects on companies because of their different resources and capabilities or strategic positioning
  • The extent to which external changes create competitive advantage and disadvantage depends on the magnitude of the change and the extent of firms’ strategic differences
responsiveness to change
Responsiveness to change
  • 2 Key Capabilities of Responsiveness:
      • Ability to anticipate changes
      • Speed at which you adjust to those changes (time-based competition)
        • Information
          • Rely on customers, suppliers and even competitors for that information
        • Short Cycle Times
          • Allow information on emerging markets to be acted on quickly
          • Important in the fashion industry (who puts out trending designs out first)
internal changes through innovation
Internal Changes Through Innovation
  • Innovation can create competitive advantage but also provide a basis for overturning the competitive advantage of other firms
  • Strategic Innovation (new game strategy) - new approaches to doing business including business models
      • Creating new value for customers from novel products, experiences or modes of product delivery:
        • Toys-R-Us: big-box store with a variety of toys
        • Nordstrom: augmented customer service
        • Sephora: atypical approaches to display and store layout
      • Redesigned processes and novel organizational designs
        • Apple combining an MP3 player with its iTunes store
        • SWA no frills service, single plane type and non-union employees
shaping innovative strategies
Shaping innovative strategies
  • New Industries
      • Launching products that creates a whole new industry
      • Purest form of blue ocean strategy
      • Xerox created plain-paper copier industry
  • New Customer Segments
      • Creating new customer segments for existing product concepts
      • Apple didn’t invent the personal computer but launched the market for computers in the home
  • New Sources of Competitive Advantage
      • Introducing novel approaches to creating customer value
      • Coca-Cola introduced the freestyle fountain dispenser which provides a selection of 125 varieties of Coca-Cola products in a self-serve format
sustaining competitive advantage
Sustaining Competitive Advantage
  • Competitors undermine another firms competitive advantage by either innovation or imitation
  • Imitation is the most direct form of competition therefore barriers are needed to guard against it
  • Isolating mechanisms- barriers that protects a firms profits from being driven down by the competitive process
  • For successful imitation a firm must meet these four conditions:
      • Identification- identify that a rival possesses a competitive advantage
      • Incentive- believe that investing in imitation can earn superior returns
      • Diagnosis- be able to diagnosis the features of its rival’s strategy that gives it competitive advantage
      • Resource Acquisition- acquire through transfer or replication the resources and capabilities needed for imitation
  • Obscure the firm’s superior profitability
        • Much easier for private as opposed to public firms
  • Pedigree Petfoods (Mars Inc.) was able to accomplish this until the UK Monopolies Commission revealed that Pedigree earned a return on capital of 47%
  • Firms may be able to undermine the incentive for other firms to imitate through deterrence and preemption
  • Deterrence- signaling aggressive intentions to imitators
      • NutraSweet’s aggressive price war against the Holland Sweetener Company may have deterred other potential entrants
  • Preemption- exploiting all available investment opportunities
      • Proliferation of product varieties
      • Large investments in production capacity ahead of the growth of market demand
      • Patent proliferation
  • In order to imitate, a firm must understand the basis of its rivals success
  • The problem lies in the identification of the link from superior performance to the decisions that generate that performance
      • Causal ambiguity- the more complex a firm’s competitive advantage and the more it is based on complex bundles of capabilities, the more difficult it is to diagnose the reasons behind its success
      • Uncertain imitability- with ambiguity associated with the causes of success, attempts at imitation are subject to uncertain success
  • Recent research suggests that the complex combinations of resources and capabilities may make imitation nearly impossible
  • Another issue is the idea that some practices may be generically beneficial for a firm to put into place while other practices are only successful when combined with other practices
resource acquisition
Resource Acquisition
  • Now firms face the challenge of assembling the resources and capabilities of the advantaged firm
  • To guard against imitators, firms can base its competitive advantage around resources and capabilities that are immobile and difficult to replicate
  • On the other hand competitive advantage not requiring complex, firm-specific resources are often imitated quickly
  • This all depends on the extent to which first-mover advantage plays a role in the market
      • First-mover advantage- the idea that the first firm to occupy a strategic position gains access to resources and capabilities that cannot be matched
types of competitive advantage
Types of Competitive Advantage

Firms can achieve or potentially achieve a higher rate of profit over a rival in one of two ways:

  • Cost Advantage- supply an identical product or service at a lower cost
  • Differentiation Advantage- supply a product or service that is unique in such a way that customers are willing to pay a price premium

These two sources of competitive advantage are radically different in terms of company strategy – opposite ends of the spectrum

examples of cost vs differentiation
Examples of Cost vs. Differentiation
  • Cost:
  • Walmart
  • McDonalds
  • Ikea
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Differentiation
  • Apple
  • Mercedes and BMW
  • Bose
  • Nike
cost advantage
Cost Advantage
  • There are seven determinants of a firms unit cost or cost per unit of output (cost drivers)
  • These determinants vary across industries, firms, and across different activities within a firm
  • By analyzing these different cost drivers, firms can:
      • Analyze its cost position in relation to it competitors and diagnose the sources of inefficiency
      • Make recommendations on how to improve its cost efficiency
cost drivers
Cost Drivers

-Technical input-output relationships



Economies of Scale

Economies of Learning

-Increased individual skills

-Improved organizational routines

-Process innovation

-Re-engineering of business processes

Production Techniques

-Standardization of designs & components

-Design for manufacture

Product Design

-Location advantages

-Ownership of low-cost inputs

-Nonunion labor

-Bargaining power

Input Costs

-Ratio of fixed to variable costs

-Fast and flexible capacity adjustment

Capacity Utilization

-Organizational slack/X-inefficiency

-Motivation and organizational culture

-Managerial effectiveness

Residual Efficiency

value chain analysis
Value Chain Analysis
  • A value chain analysis is an effective way to conduct this examination because it requires identifying:
        • Relative importance to total cost
        • Cost drivers for each activity
        • Efficiency of each activity
        • Comparison of costs to each other
        • Whether to outsource or not
  • A value chain analysis involves 6 steps in which a firm:
        • Breaks itself down into separate activities
        • Establishes the importance of each activity in the total cost of the product
        • Compares costs by activity
        • Identifies cost drivers for each activity
        • Identifies linkages between activities
        • Identifies opportunities for reducing costs
stages of value chain analysis for cost advantage
Stages of Value Chain Analysis for Cost Advantage
  • Break down the firm into separate activities- this requires the knowledge of the chain of processes involved in the transformation of inputs to outputs and can usually be guided by a firms divisional and departmental structure
  • Establish the relative importance of different activities in the total cost of the product- to identify which activities are major sources of cost so we can ultimately assign costs and assets to each activity
  • Compare costs by activity- to establish which activities are performed with relative efficiency and those do not, then benchmark those costs against those of competitors
stages of value chain analysis for cost advantage1
Stages of Value Chain Analysis for Cost advantage
  • Identify cost drivers for each activity- taking into consideration if the activity is capital intensive (machine depreciation and maintenance, output of machine) or labor intensive (wage rates, speed of work, defect rates)
  • Identify linkages between activities- because the costs of some activities may be effected by the performance of other activities
  • Identify opportunities for reducing costs- after performing the first 5 steps, opportunities for cost reduction become more evident
      • Is outsourcing possible for inefficient activities?
      • Can wages be reduced directly or from relocation of services? (Input costs)
      • Would better training create a more efficient and effective worker? (Economies of learning)
differentiation advantage
Differentiation Advantage
  • Occurs when a firm is able to obtain from its differentiation a price premium in the market that exceeds the cost of providing the differentiation
  • Opportunities differ from market to market and product to product
  • Products that lack physical differentiation (commodities) can still create customer value where others have not
  • Critical issue of differentiation advantage: the firm must make sure its differentiation creates value for customers and that the value exceeds the cost of the differentiation
  • We can also use the value chain analysis to discover opportunities for differentiation advantage
stages of value chain analysis for differentiation advantage
Stages of Value Chain Analysis for Differentiation Advantage
  • Construct a value chain for the firm and the customer- values chains for the firm, immediate customers and firms or customer further down the value chain can be useful. Also create separate value chains for the main categories of customers because they may have different needs.
  • Identify the drivers of uniqueness in each activity- analyze each separate activity to discover its individual variables and actions that can be taken to achieve uniqueness.
differentiation advantage1
Differentiation Advantage

Support Activities

Primary Activities

stages of value chain analysis for differentiation advantage1
Stages of Value Chain Analysis for Differentiation Advantage
  • Select the most promising differentiation variables for the firm- on the supply side there are 3 important considerations
        • Analyze strengths and capabilities to establish the greatest potential for differentiating or lower cost differentiating than rivals
        • Identify linkages among activities because if those interactions aren’t flowing well, product reliability can be compromised
        • Considering the ease of sustaining uniqueness or differentiation- the more specific the resources are to the firm or complex coordination of the differentiation, the more difficult imitation will be for competitors
  • Locate linkages between the value chain of the firm and that of the buyer- to create value for its customers, firms must locate the linkages between differentiation of it own activities and cost reduction and differentiation within the customers
porter s generic strategies
Porter’s Generic Strategies
  • Porter believes that cost leadership and differentiation are mutually exclusive and a firm that tries to focus on both is almost guaranteed low profitability
  • Ultimately, a firm needs to decide on pursuing either cost or differentiation advantage and then decide on its market scope, industry wide (broad market) or single segment (narrow market)

Source of Competitive Advantage

Low Cost



Competitive Scope

Single Segment