Kim & Mauborgne: To sustain themselves in the marketplace, red ocean strategists focus on building advantages over the competition, usually by assessing what competitors do and striving to do it better. Here, grabbing a bigger share of a finite market is seen as a zero-sum game in which one company’s gain is achieved at another company’s loss. They focus on dividing up the red ocean, where growth is increasingly limited. Such strategic thinking leads firms to divide industries into attractive and unattractive ones and to decide accordingly whether or not to enter.
Blue ocean strategists recognize that market boundaries exist only in managers’ minds, and they do not let existing market structures limit their thinking. To them, extra demand is out there, largely untapped. The crux of the problem is how to create it. This, in turn, requires a shift of attention from supply to demand, from a focus on competing to a focus on creating innovative value to unlock new demand. This is achieved via the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost.
Under blue ocean strategy, there is scarcely an attractive or unattractive industry per se because the level of industry attractiveness can be altered through companies’ conscientious efforts. As market structure is changed by breaking the value/cost trade-off, so are the rules of the game. Competition in the old game is therefore rendered irrelevant. By expanding the demand side of the economy new wealth is created. Such a strategy therefore allows firms to largely play a non–zero-sum game, with high payoff possibilities.