RED OCEAN VS BLUE OCEAN STRATEGY

Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne coined the terms red and blue oceans to denote the market universe. Red oceans are all the industries in existence today – the known market space, where industry boundaries are defined and companies try to outperform their rivals to grab a greater share of the existing market. Cutthroat competition turns the ocean bloody red. Hence, the term ‘red’ oceans.

Blue oceans denote all the industries not in existence today – the unknown market space, unexplored and untainted by competition. Like the ‘blue’ ocean, it is vast, deep and powerful –in terms of opportunity and profitable growth.

The chart below summarizes the distinct characteristics of competing in red oceans (Red Ocean Strategy) versus creating a blue ocean (Blue Ocean Strategy).

RED OCEAN STRATEGY
Compete in existing market space
Beat the competition
Exploit existing demand
Make the value-cost trade-off
Align the whole system of a firm's activities with its strategic choice of differentiation or low cost
BLUE OCEAN STRATEGY
Create uncontested market space
Make the competition irrelevant
Create and capture new demand
Break the value-cost trade-off
Align the whole system of a firm's activities in pursuit of differentiation and low cost
RED OCEAN STRATEGY
Compete in existing market space
Beat the competition
Exploit existing demand
Make the value-cost trade-off
Align the whole system of a firm's activities with its strategic choice of differentiation or low cost
BLUE OCEAN STRATEGY
Create uncontested market space
Make the competition irrelevant
Create and capture new demand
Break the value-cost trade-off
Align the whole system of a firm's activities in pursuit of differentiation and low cost

© Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne. All rights reserved.

Fundamental differences between red ocean strategy and blue ocean strategy

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 pay-off possibilities. 

7 powerful examples of blue ocean strategy

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