Competitive Advantage

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The basis of performing above-average within an industry. Explanation of the CA (CA) model by Michael Porter.


According to the CA model of Porter, a competitive strategy takes offensive or defensive action to create a defendable position in an industry, in order to cope successfully with competitive forces and generate a superior Return on Investment. According to Michael Porter, the basis of above-average performance within an industry is sustainable CA.


2 basic types of CA

  1. Cost Leadership (low cost)
  2. Differentiation

Both can be more broadly approached or narrow, which results in the third viable competitive strategy:

  1. Focus

CA type 1: Cost Leadership

  • Achieving Cost Leadership means that a firm sets out to become the low cost producer in its industry.
  • A cost leader must achieve parity or at least proximity in the bases of differentiation, even though it relies on cost leadership for its CA.
  • If more than one company try to achieve Cost Leadership, this is usually disastrous.
  • Often achieved by economies of scale.

CA type 2: Differentiation

  • Achieving of Differentiation means that a firm seeks to be unique in its industry along some dimensions that are widely appreciated  by buyers.
  • A differentiator can not ignore its cost position. In all areas that do not affect its differentiation it should try to decrease cost; in the differentiation area the costs should at least be lower than the price premium it receives from the buyers.
  • Areas of differentiation can be: product, distribution, sales, marketing, service, image, etc.

CA type 3: Focus

  • Achieving Focus means that a firm sets out to be best in a segment or group of segments.
  • 2 variants: Cost Focus and Differentiation Focus.

Stuck in the middle

  • This is usually a recipe for below-average profitability compared to the industry.
  • Still, attractive profits are possible if and as long as the industry as a whole is very attractive.
  • Manifestation of lack of choice.
  • Especially dangerous for Focusers that have been successful, and then start neglecting their focus. They must seek other Focus niches. Rather then compromise their focus strategy.

Overview of the Book "Competitive Strategy"

  • In Part I, Porter discusses the structural analysis of industries (with the five forces), the three generic competitive strategies (overall Cost Leadership, Focus, and Differentiation), offering an excellent framework for competitor analysis, competitive moves, strategy toward buyers and suppliers, structural analysis within industries (strategic groups, strategic mapping, mobility barriers), and industry evolution (life cycle, evolutionary processes).
  • In Part II, Porter discusses competitive strategy within various generic industry environments. Such as: fragmented industries (with no real market leader), emerging industries, mature industries, declining industries, and global industries.
  • In Part III, Porter discusses strategic decisions which businesses/firms can take. Such as: vertical integration (forward, backward, partnerships), capacity expansion, and entry into new industries/businesses.

Book: Michael E. Porter - Competitive Strategy -

Book: Michael E. Porter - Competitive Advantage -


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Compare with CA: Value Chain  |  Value Disciplines  |  Parenting Advantage  |  Positioning  |  Core Competence  |  Rule of Three  |  Strategic Types  |  Delta Model  |  BCG Matrix  |  Growth Phases  |  Distinctive Capabilities  |  Acquisition Integration Approaches  |  Diamond Model  |  Relative Value of Growth  |  Experience Curve  |  Twelve Principles of the Network Economy  |  Blue Ocean Strategy


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