Finding a Blue Ocean in a Sea of Red: Differentiating Yourself from the Competition (Exercise Included!)

CGC: Finding a Blue Ocean in a Sea of Red

About the Blue Ocean Strategy

As a marketing strategist, I’m often asked by my clients, “how do I differentiate myself from the competition?” Aside from focusing on a niche market and utilizing a unique selling proposition, there’s another systematic way to effectively make your competition irrelevant. It involves being a leader, getting creative and really trying to revolutize your industry.

There is an incredibly insightful book called Blue Ocean Strategy, written by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. The lessons from this book are so powerful that it’s even included in my Empowered Marketing program, as one of the strategies that I teach. Here’s a quote from it that essentially explains the purpose and goal:

“The only way to beat the competition is to stop trying to beat the competition. In red oceans the industry boundaries are defined and accepted, and the competitive rules of the game are known. In blue oceans, competition is irrelevant because the rules of the game are waiting to be set.

“The creators of blue oceans, surprisingly, didn’t use the competition as their benchmark. Instead of focusing on beating the competition, they focus on making the competition irrelevant by creating a leap in value for buyers and your company, thereby opening up new market space.” [W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne]

The core concept of the idea is this: instead of focusing your branding efforts in a red ocean, which is bloody from all the cutthroat competition in a crowded industry of the same businesses, you want to create a beautiful blue ocean through thinking differently about your industry. Doing this will obviously require you to step up and take some risks.

Using the Blue Ocean Strategy

In order to make this idea applicable to your business, the tool used is called a “strategy canvas.” It’s a very simple visual representation of your business in the current industry. It can be used for your current business and at any time you want to position something new or different in the marketplace.

If you’d like to give it a shot, start by mapping out what the competition is doing in your industry – from their pricing, to offerings, to delivery, or anything that comes to mind. Then, map out your business and how you can differentiate yourself from your competition within those same elements (pricing, offerings, delivery, etc.).

Let’s look at an example from Cirque du Soleil and how they differentiated themselves from traditional circuses.

Let’s review each point:

  • Cirque du Soleil places more value on a higher ticket price, rather than a lower ticket price like traditional circuses.
  • They place little to no effort on star performances, unlike traditional circuses.
  • There is no emphasis on animals, unlike traditional circuses.
  • Same with aisle concessions – there are none.
  • Both Cirque du Soleil and traditional circuses place seemingly the same value on unique venues.
  • However, when it comes to themes, Cirque du Soleil places more value on that.
  • Artistic music is definitely not emphasized in traditional circuses, but is in Cirque du Soleil.
  • And finally, Cirque du Soleil is much more refined than a traditional circus.

Some questions you want to ask yourself during this process include: What are the industry norms? What does everyone else focus on? How can you really be different? What can you innovate or create that is fresh and new and inspired?

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