Viewing strategy as a plan, a ploy, and a pattern involve only the actions of a single firm. In contrast, the next P—strategy as position—considers a firm and its competitors. Specifically, strategy as position refers to a firm’s place in the industry relative to its competitors. McDonald’s, for example, has long been and remains the clear leader among fast-food chains. This position offers both good and bad aspects for McDonald’s. One advantage of leading an industry is that many customers are familiar with and loyal to leaders. Being the market leader, however, also makes McDonald’s a target for rivals such as Burger King and Wendy’s. These firms create their strategies with McDonald’s as a primary concern. Old Navy offers another example of strategy as position. Old Navy has been positioned to sell fashionable clothes at competitive prices.
9 Mastering Strategic Management
Old Navy occupies a unique position as the low-cost strategy within the Gap Inc.’s fleet of brands.
Lindsey Turner – clearance – CC BY 2.0.
Old Navy is owned by the same corporation (Gap Inc.) as the midlevel brand the Gap and upscale brand Banana Republic. Each of these three brands is positioned at a different pricing level. The firm hopes that as Old Navy’s customers grow older and more affluent, they will shop at the Gap and then eventually at Banana Republic. A similar positioning of different brands is pursued by General Motors through its Chevrolet (entry level), Buick (midlevel), and Cadillac (upscale) divisions.
Firms can carve out a position by performing certain activities in a different manner than their rivals. For example, Southwest Airlines is able to position itself as a lower-cost and more efficient provider by not offering meals that are common among other airlines. In addition, Southwest does not assign specific seats. This allows for faster loading of passengers. Positioning a firm in this manner can only be accomplished when managers make trade-offs that cut off certain possibilities (such as offering meals and assigned seats) to place their firms in a unique strategic space. When firms position themselves through unique goods and services customers value, business often thrives. But when firms try to please everyone, they often find themselves without the competitive positioning needed for long-term success. Thus deciding what a firm is not going to do is just as important to strategy as deciding what it is going to do (Porter, 1996