Blue Ocean Strategy was first introduced in a book by two eminent professors at INSEAD - Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim. In the book, they assert that a ‘blue ocean strategy’ helps create an increase in value for both businesses and their end customers.
What is the blue ocean strategy you ask? It states that for any business to make an entry into a brand new market and be able to generate adequate new demand, it must pursue the ideas of differentiation and low-cost offering, simultaneously.
The goal is to establish and take control of the (thus far) uncontested market space and eliminate all viable competition in the process. It is predicated on the idea that industry structure and market limits are constructible depending on the behaviors and attitudes of the involved industry participants.
Blue Ocean Strategy Meaning
The Blue Ocean Strategy meaning entails a business strategy that focuses on creating new and uncontested market spaces instead of competing in already established marketplaces. A market that already exists and has several competitors is known as red ocean strategy, while an untapped market that has no competitors is known as a blue ocean theory.
How a Blue Ocean Works
A blue ocean strategy requires companies to look beyond existing demand to identify new opportunities. Instead of trying to outperform rivals in existing markets, businesses aim to create new markets, unlock new demand, and make the competition irrelevant. This approach is about creating a new market space, where there is no competition, and where businesses can differentiate themselves.
Importance of Blue Ocean Strategy
Blue Ocean Strategy has become increasingly important in today's hyper-competitive marketplace. Here are some of the key benefits of the blue ocean strategy:
- Blue Ocean Strategy helps businesses to create new markets and drive growth by unlocking untapped demand.
- Blue Ocean Strategy enables businesses to differentiate themselves from competitors by creating new and innovative products or services.
- Blue Ocean Strategy helps businesses to make the competition irrelevant by creating a unique value proposition that cannot be easily replicated.
- Blue Ocean Strategy allows businesses to increase profits by creating new market spaces and reducing competition.
What are blue oceans and red oceans?
The blue ocean and red ocean strategy refer to how markets are segregated and defined when it comes to value innovation.
The existing and current industries make up the known market space or the red oceans. Industry borders are established and acknowledged in red oceans, and the rules of engagement and competition are well known and adhered to.
Here, businesses strive to outperform their rivals in order to snag a bigger piece of the pie. Profits and growth have an inverse relationship with how crowded the markets are i.e., the greater the number of players vying for the same market or audience segments, the lesser will be a business’s bottom line. Products turn into commodities, fueling a fierce or "bloody" competition. Hence, they are called red oceans.
In contrast, the blue oceans represent all the sectors and market opportunities that do not yet exist. The markets are so far untapped and haven’t seen competition from the different market players. Demand is created rather than contested for in blue oceans. There are many viable and achievable opportunities for a quick and profitable expansion.
Competition is unimportant in the blue ocean strategy framework since the rules of engagement are not adequately defined and are still in their infancy. A blue ocean provides enormous, deep, and powerful growth and profit opportunities for the market creators.
The blue ocean and red ocean strategy allow innovative leaders and businesses to be able to identify the core areas which can help drive value at a lower, as a detriment to the competition.
|New, unexplored markets or industries with little to no competition
|Existing, crowded markets or industries with intense competition
|Opportunities to create and capture new demand
|Focus on competing for existing demand
|Emphasis on innovation and creating new value
|Emphasis on cost-cutting and efficiency
|Customers are open to new ideas and solutions
|Customers are more likely to stick with familiar brands and products
|Higher potential for higher profit margins
|Lower profit margins due to price competition
|Requires a shift in mindset and approach
|Business as usual approach
|Strategy involves creating a new market space
|Strategy involves outperforming rivals within an existing market space
|Risk of failure is higher due to uncertainty
|Risk of failure is lower due to established market dynamics
|Focus on creating uncontested market space
|Focus on beating the competition
|Examples: Cirque du Soleil, Airbnb, Uber
|Examples: Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Nike
Principles of blue ocean strategy
Create a unique vision
At the start of the strategic planning exercise and during the strategy formulation phase, it is not as simple to differentiate between a red and a blue ocean market.
The first step is to identify the needs of your chosen target market and the key gaps that your product or service can fill. Once you do that, you need to analyze the strategies that the current players in the market are executing to gain market share, and gain insights into the performance of those strategies.
Then, you need to put down the factors of differentiation that will help you gain an upper hand.
Use the above checklist as a guide through the process and hold internal brainstorming sessions for each point.
Note that you do not necessarily need a never-done-before breakthrough or even be the first mover in the market. While technology is an accelerant and is important, what really drives change in a market is a unique idea.
And sometimes all you need to create a blue ocean is a paradigm shift in perspective and the ability to offer unique value to the customer.
The first step will be to identify the key people who can drive change and have an influence on organizational growth and direction. Drill down the teams into smaller groups to allow for the least resistance to change.
This will make the organization actionable at all levels. You also need to neutralize politics – add a trusted advisor to your inner team, one who understands the organization’s politics and how to isolate opposition.
Capture new market opportunities.
As per the blue ocean theory, when a blue ocean is identified and a new market emerges, it has massive potential for growth. The advantage is to those market players who are able to spot it in time and are able to make their move.
Those creating this new market will be able to tap into a new demand, which will have them enjoy higher margins and lower competition.
Markets or blue oceans are created by value innovation and at the same time driving down costs. These combined strategies effectively beat the competition. In other words, the key to success is to find a market that you can create and then make your own.
Value innovation dictates that you should focus on strategies that help your customers and your business gain value and make the competition in the shared market space pretty much irrelevant. This, by design, creates a market space that has been so far uncontested and has no active competitors.
When mapping out a blue ocean strategy formulation, value for the customers as well as key innovation ideas needs equal attention. Once that strategy is defined, it needs to be aligned with the price and utility of the offering, along with its cost positions.
Define the unique value proposition
Look to the value traditionally delivered or required along with the value proposition that the business offers. That is, what do customers generally purchase or use together with the core product or service of the business?
Gaining insights into the complementary values will give you an understanding of how to innovate the offerings in your core value proposition. The goal here is to take the complimentary value out of the equation for the buyers or find an integrated offering that enables the creation of a new market for the tweaked offering.
These three propositions are essential to the success of the strategy and must be mutually reinforcing.
Value innovation assigns equal importance to the concepts of both value and innovation. When an offering provides value but lacks innovation, the value it creates is marginal and not enough to sustain it in the long term. In such a scenario, while the value offered increases, it does not do enough to create marked differentiation that allows for growth and scalability.
Innovation without value usually is technology-driven, market pioneering, or futuristic, often aiming beyond what buyers are ready to accept and pay for. This means that even if the market is created, it will lack interest from customers because it just does not provide enough value to them to make any reasonable consideration.
Create a competitive advantage
To understand this further, we must look at four distinctive elements that help create that much-needed edge that will help you leap over the competition to create a unique blue ocean space for your offerings:
- Factors of competition as we try to determine which ones we are going to eliminate
- Which factors we are going to raise
- Which factors we are going to reduce
- And most importantly, what are we going to create that is brand new, so we create demand rather than fulfill demand
In the old days, companies would usually compete by either creating higher value for customers, which would by default make it more expensive for them to acquire. Or by creating a more standardized value proposition, leveraging on operational efficiency, and offering decent value for a lower cost.
In step 2, think about which factors need to be reduced well below the industry. Think of characteristics of a certain product that have been designed to beat the competition, but that cost a lot of time and resources. Can this initiative be reduced to something simpler with lower costs, but still remain competitive, interesting, and relevant to users?
Prioritize resources intelligently
This is about executing your Blue Ocean Strategy and strategy implementation. You need to get employees to understand the need for a shift in strategy, you may need to cope with limited resources, and you need to motivate your people and counter internal politics.
Using the principles of tipping point leadership will help business leaders and decision-makers to find actions that have a disproportionately higher impact on performance. Essentially actions that result in higher performance as compared to actions of seemingly similar value or priority.
Help your teams to directly see the issues unhappy customers are facing, and what it means to them. Assign resources where they can add the most value and can make the most difference.
When it comes to dealing with limited resources, tipping point leaders seek to multiply the value of what they have as part of their strategy implementation. They understand that resources are often allocated based on old assumptions. So they seek to identify waste and reallocate those resources to areas or activities that yield a much higher return.
Of course, the need to generate and utilize resources can be troubling due to limited capabilities. When you sit down and reprioritize how you use your resources, it also helps address the issue of motivation.
As resources are working on high-impact tasks and projects, their motivation to do well and create value in their work automatically increases.
Uses of Blue Ocean Strategy
Blue Ocean Strategy is used in a variety of industries, including technology, consumer goods, and healthcare. Here are some ways businesses can use the blue ocean strategy:
- Use Blue Ocean Strategy to create new products or services that solve a specific customer problem or need.
- Explore untapped markets with Blue Ocean Strategy that have yet to be fully exploited.
- Innovate and differentiate themselves from competitors by offering something unique through the Blue Ocean Strategy.
Examples of Blue Ocean Companies
Several companies have successfully implemented the Blue Ocean Strategy. Here are some examples:
- Cirque du Soleil - The circus company created a new market space by combining elements of traditional circuses with theater and music, thereby creating a new entertainment industry that did not previously exist through Blue Ocean Strategy.
- Airbnb – With the help of Blue Ocean Strategy they disrupted the hotel industry by creating a new market for home-sharing, which allowed people to rent out their homes to travelers.
- Nintendo - Blue Ocean Strategy helped create a new market by targeting casual gamers with the Wii console, which used motion-sensing technology and offered a more family-friendly gaming experience.
Why should leaders learn the blue ocean strategy?
The blue ocean strategy allows for shaping up a whole new market and helps leaders be innovative in their approach to growing the business. In fact, learning the blue ocean strategy helps people step into leadership roles as it allows them to implement value innovation and drive exponential business growth.
Want to get started in management and leadership? The Hero Vired Certificate Program in Strategic Management and Business Essentials is offered in collaboration with INSEAD, the #1 B-School in the world in 2021.
The program not only has a dedicated module for blue ocean strategy but it is also designed for present and future leaders to gain key skills that will help them take the next step in their careers. The program places a high emphasis on leadership and includes key modules that enable it, helping you become adept at strategy formulation and strategy implementation
You learn with eminent faculty from INSEAD each of whom comes with immense experience and are themselves leaders in their respective fields. Through business simulations and a case-study-based approach, the program is grounded in real-world learning that enables you to not only learn strategy implementation but also step into key leadership roles.
In conclusion, Blue Ocean Strategy is a powerful tool that enables businesses to create new and uncontested market spaces. Blue Ocean Strategy allows companies to differentiate themselves from competitors and unlock untapped demand, which can help drive growth and increase profits. By focusing on creating new market spaces, businesses can make the competition irrelevant and drive innovation, which can lead to long-term success. Therefore, understanding the Blue Ocean Strategy meaning can help stay ahead of the competition and succeed in today's marketplace.