Blue Ocean Marketing: A Strategy for All Seasons

marketing strategy

In a small, or specialized market, one big question is: How can a business differentiate itself from its competition? One marketing strategy is to head out to sea. The concept of blue water marketing was outlined in the 2005 book “Blue Ocean Strategy.” When distilled, the marketing strategy is simple: Head away from crowded waters and out to sea where there is less competition. This means creating and focusing on elements of your business that are not easy to imitate in the way that quality, customer service and experience are. Here are three companies doing that well.

Three Blue Ocean Companies | Marketing Strategy

marketing strategy

The Westin

The Westin Hotels & Resorts is in business to “sell” rooms. So it would follow that they normally market to out-of-town guests. But in addition, they have started a “running concierge” program aimed at local clientele. In doing research on its clientele, the Westin found that millennial guests like an active lobby, and rely on locals for recommendations. By inviting the local running community in with various programs, Westin achieved that. The program also makes local clients aware of the property for referrals to their guests. In addition, with the program RunWestin, Westin Hotels & Resorts joined the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series as a sponsor, creating an exclusive VIP marathon package for runners traveling to events. The running concierge program dovetails with this by helping traveling runners find partners to reduce the stress of competition and traveling. Not your typical hotel concierge!

Lesson: Rethink what you do, and what your value is to a completely new clientele.

marketing strategy


How did Tesla become one of the three biggest luxury cars, behind Mercedes E Class and BMW’s 5 series, after only several years of existence? The answer can be found in a combination of things —  the star power of the company’s owner, Elon Musk, and the car itself. But the biggest reason may be the way it is sold. Rather than making customers make a special trip to a car dealership, Tesla showrooms are in shopping malls, right next to your favorite Zara, Bloomingdale’s and Sees Candy.  Most cars dealerships would be lucky to get a hundred potential customers on the lot each day, but Tesla gets thousands. And according to an article in Forbes, “many sales have come from people who had zero interest in buying a car until they saw Tesla’s showroom. Impressed by the car’s design they could walk right in and immediately talk to a sales person rather than make a special trip.”

Lesson here: Head away from places you find your competition; go where your customers are.

marketing strategy

McCall Pattern Company

For a lesson on how to make a marketing pivot when you are a well-established brand, take a look to McCall Pattern Company. Around since 1863, the home-sewing brand is newly fashionable thanks to a rise in 21st century sewers, bloggers, authors and designers. And of course Etsy, which is leading the new appreciation for artisanal crafts. Social media plays a part as well. According to a piece in the New York Times, “McCall is mining its past to build a bridge to the future, posting images from its impressive archive to social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest.” Now with McCall’s, Butterick and Vogue patterns under the McCall Pattern Company parent company, those posts include famous faces and iconic designers who in the 1970s designed special patterns for Vogue, “dispelling the notion that homemade clothing was frumpy or from members of religious cults.” In that same vein, today McCall has struck deals with popular sewing bloggers and turned them into designers. The passion and emotional attachment so many have for making their own garments remains today and McCall found a way to pivot and capture it.

Lesson: Create and capture new demand.

4 Do’s and don’ts of sailing into your blue ocean.

Don’t: Compete in the existing market space.
Do: Create uncontested market space.

Don’t: Try to beat the competition.
Do. Make the competition irrelevant by heading in a different direction altogether.
Don’t: Exploit existing demand.
Do: Create and capture new demand.

Don’t: Trade value for low cost.
Do: Break that equation by focusing on unique value, not low cost.

Top photo credit: Julieanne Kost

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