The challenge for a marketing strategy is to find a way of achieving a sustainable competitive
advantage over the other competing products and firms in a market.
A competitive advantage is an advantage over competitors gained by offering consumers greater value,
either by means of lower prices or by providing greater benefits and service that justifies higher prices.
Porter suggested four "generic" business strategies that could be adopted in order to gain competitive
advantage. The strategies relate to the extent to which the scope of a business' activities are narrow versus
broad and the extent to which a business seeks to differentiate its products.
The four strategies are summarised in the figure below:
The differentiation and cost leadership strategies seek competitive advantage in a broad range of market
or industry segments.
By contrast, the differentiation focus and cost focus strategies are adopted in a narrow market or industry.
With this strategy, the objective is to become the lowest-cost producer in the industry. The traditional
method to achieve this objective is to produce on a large scale which enables the business to exploit
economies of scale.
Why is cost leadership potentially so important? Many (perhaps all) market segments in the industry are
supplied with the emphasis placed on minimising costs. If the achieved selling price can at least equal (or
near) the average for the market, then the lowest-cost producer will (in theory) enjoy the best profits. This
strategy is usually associated with large-scale businesses offering "standard" products with relatively little
differentiation that are readily acceptable to the majority of customers. Occasionally, a low-cost leader
will also discount its product to maximise sales, particularly if it has a significant cost advantage over the
competition and, in doing so, it can further increase its market share.
Astrategy of cost leadership requires close cooperation between all the functional areas of a business. To
be the lowest-cost producer, a firm is likely to achieve or use several of the following: • High levels of productivity
• High capacity utilisation
• Use of bargaining power to negotiate the lowest prices for production inputs
• Lean production methods (e.g. JIT)
• Effective use of technology in the production process
• Access to the most effective distribution channels
Here a business seeks a lower-cost advantage in just one or a small number of market segments. The
product will be basic - perhaps a similar product to the higher-priced and featured market leader, but
acceptable to sufficient consumers