Feb 2018

Before I finally decided to pen down this article, I always felt that competition is usually a tug-of-war between two or more powerful rivals craving for market share. But a renowned Harvard Business School Professor, Michael Porter said that competition is far more complex than what it looks like. According to him, a brand with a more profitable digital strategy is far superior than one with a big name or organizational structure.

This led me to dig deeper and understand that any digital strategy that accounts for a business’ profitability or bottom-line as some may call it, is often dictated by these 5 powerful forces –


As a normal human tendency, Buyers want more benefits but want to pay less. Who wouldn’t, right? Fierce competition and a heavily crowded marketplace often result in businesses resorting to discounts or price drops or lucrative offers to close more deals. 

In such an environment, it is critical that you pivot your digital strategy in a way that you resonate with the buyers’ intent but at the same time maintain your value proposition. It is important to reach the right buyer with the right message at the right time. So, a buyers intent actually determines the type and timing of a message.

In a crowded market among the likes of Starbucks, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf together with their digital agency devised a strategy to promote their background and rich history about having best quality coffee beans and leaves as a method to promote its uniqueness and thereby win over a lot of customers. Born and brewed in California, in 1963, Herbert B. Hyman started The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Now 40 years later, they have grown into one of the largest privately-owned, family-run coffee and tea companies in the world. In this classic example, they used their brand values and authenticity as a value proposition to attract buyers (target audience) without actually worrying about the price point.


The Big Players in the market often set the bar. They want to get paid more but offer less in order to boost their profitability and maintain their status quo. They use different means to bloat up their Klout scores in order to be perceived as a bigger and more powerful brand in their industry. And they seem to set the benchmark on what is perceived to be – the best! 


 In such scenarios, you as brands need to stop and ask yourself –

  • Are they really our competition?
  • Are they serving the exact same personas of the target audience that we want to?
  • Are they really offering the quality they promise or are known for?

If the answer to all the questions is a YES, you got a big job on your hand! If the answers are a NO, then you need to discard them from your minds and build a robust digital strategy based on your brand’s own objectives.

For example, a Toyota would deploy a digital marketing strategy to target individuals across all ages with a decent financial condition whereas a BMW or an Audi would position itself digitally as a preferred brand for individuals aged between maybe 35-55 with high levels of disposable income. However, eventually, on a broader perspective, they are all termed as competitors!


New Entrants into the market can often cause tension among the otherwise settled brands. Every new entrant impacts the mindset of a customer or a buyer and lures them by offering low prices, better deals, and complimentary perks. This causes the larger and well-established brands to bring down their prices eventually to match the new entrants which in turn reduces their profitability in trying to hold on to their valuable customers.

Reliance, a telecommunications provider in India disrupted the entire telecom business by introducing its own low-cost mobile network operator “Jio” into the game and offering extremely inexpensive data and voice plans to become an instant hit in the country. Although they might not have made a huge profit out of it, they are definitely at the top of everyone’s minds.

For every new entrant, creating an IMPACT is everything! They seem to send other brands into a frenzy, hilariously illustrated in this cartoon by


 While focusing on the above 3 forces, a brand should never write off their existing rivals. Just like we would say, a horse would never run as fast as it can unless there are other horses trying to outpace it, having no competition leads to complacency which is indeed very harmful to any brand.

Existing rivals keep a brand on their toes by having to keep up with industry trends and the latest updates in the digital stratosphere in order to try and remain one small step ahead at all times.

Digital Loyalty and Retention campaigns play an important role here. Frequent flyer programs & flying miles are classic examples of airlines using the latest Digital strategies to constantly nudge and remind customers about their favorite brands while offering freebies and attractive benefits at the same time.



Behind every successful digital strategy, there is a team of energetic, excited and digitally empowered individuals who work in tandem to ensure that the strategy is well aligned with the brands’ objectives and goals.

Every team member has an equal and vital role to play in sharpening the strategy but at the same time, it is vital to have everyone on the same page and agreeable to each other’s opinions.

A leading global FMCG brand underwent a digital transformation training when they realized that all the internal stakeholders had different views on digital priorities and needed to bring them all on the same plate.

Royal Brunei Airlines, the flagship carrier of the Sultanate of Brunei, hired one of the top Digital Marketing agency in APAC to train and prepare its human capital for Digital Marketing, mainly it’s sales and marketing teams across the globe. This enabled them to get a holistic view of digital and fix bottlenecks which ultimately led to a big impact on the entire Digital strategy.

These 5 forces must form the pillars of every research that goes into the development of a digital strategy as Buyers dictate the positioning, Competition determines the direction and your digitally empowered Team forms the glue that holds everything together.

On a whole, these 5 forces together –

  • Control your profitability
  • Help you make better predictions


Arjun Kumar