In addition to choosing what moves their firm will make, executives also have to decide whether to respond to moves made by rivals (Table 6.6 “Responding to Rivals’ Moves”). Figuring out how to react, if at all, to a competitor’s move ranks among the most challenging decisions that executives must make. Research indicates that three factors determine the likelihood that a firm will respond to a competitive move: awareness, motivation, and capability. These three factors together determine the level of competition tension that exists between rivals (Table 6.7 “Competitive Tension: The A-M-C Framework”).
Table 6.7 Competitive Tension: The A-M-C Framework Bridges and rubber bands have been known to snap under too much tension. In a similar vein, firms experience
competitive tension with their competitors. Three factors help to explain the likelihood that a firm will respond aggressively to rivals’ competitive actions. We explain each of these factors below.
Awareness Like a patrolman walking his beat, executives must watch out for moves by competitors that can steal salesfrom their firm.
Motivation Newton’s third law of motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Just like a little kid who cries “He hit me first!” when being admonished for hitting a classmate, executives will be highly motivated to retaliate when a rival makes a competitive move.
Capability Famed literary figure Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “Thinking is easy, acting is difficult.” Like a firefighter that puts as many tools at her disposal as possible, firms must possess plans, as well as resources, to respond to the actions of their rivals.
An analysis of the “razor wars” illustrates the roles that these factors play (Ketchen, et. al., 2004). Consider Schick’s attempt to grow in the razor-system market with its introduction of the Quattro. This move was widely publicized and supported by a $120 million advertising budget. Therefore, its main competitor, Gillette, was well aware of the move. Gillette’s motivation to respond was also high. Shaving products are a vital market for Gillette, and Schick has become an increasingly formidable competitor since its acquisition by Energizer. Finally, Gillette was very capable of responding, given its vast resources and its dominant role in the industry. Because all three factors were high, a strong response was likely. Indeed, Gillette made a preemptive strike with the introduction of the Sensor 3 and Venus Devine a month before the Schick Quattro’s projected introduction.