Firms that are not industry leaders are often called runner-up or trailing firms. Some, such as PepsiCo and Ford, are quite large in their own right. These firms can either attack the leader and other competitors in an aggressive bid for further market share as market challengers, or they can choose to not “rock the boat” as market followers.
Many market challengers have gained ground or even overtaken the leader. A challenger must first determine a strategic objective (such as to increase market share) and then decide whom to attack. Attacking the market leader is a high-risk but potentially high-payoff strategy if the leader is not serving the market well. The challenger can attack firms its own size that are
FiGURE 7.3 The Concept of Optimal Market Share
underperforming and underfinanced, have aging products, are charging excessive prices, or are not satisfying customers in other ways. Another option is to attack small local and regional firms. Or a challenger might attack an industry as a whole or a pervasive way of thinking that doesn’t adequately address customer needs.
Given clear opponents and objectives, five attack strategies for challengers are:
1. Frontal attack. The attacker matches its opponent’s product, advertising, price, and distribution. A modified frontal attack, such as cutting price, can work if the market leader doesn’t retaliate and if the competitor convinces the market its product is equal to the leader’s.
2. Flank attack. A flanking strategy is another name for identifying shifts that cause gaps to develop in the market, then rushing to fill the gaps. Flanking is particularly attractive to a challenger with fewer resources and can be more likely to succeed than frontal attacks. With a geographic attack, the challenger spots areas where the opponent is underperforming. Another idea is to serve uncovered market needs.
3. Encirclement attack. Encirclement attempts to capture a wide slice of territory by launching a grand offensive on several fronts. It makes sense when the challenger commands superior resources.
4. Bypass attack. Bypassing the enemy to attack easier markets offers three lines of approach: diversifying into unrelated products, diversifying into new geographical markets, and leapfrogging into new technologies. In technological leapfrogging, the challenger patiently researches and develops the next technology, shifting the battleground to its own territory where it has an advantage.
5. Guerrilla attack. Guerrilla attacks consist of small, intermittent attacks, conventional and unconventional, including selective price cuts, intense promotional blitzes, and occasional legal action, to harass the opponent and eventually secure permanent footholds. A guerrilla campaign can be expensive and typically must be backed by a stronger attack to beat the opponent.