Strategic management: Porter’s model of generic competitive strategies - theory and analysis

Seminar Paper, 2003

14 Pages, Grade: B (66%)


Table of Contents


Part 1 – Theoretical Concept
1.1 . Porter’s Generic Competitive Strategies
1.2 . Problems with Porter’s Generic Competitive Strategies

Part 2 – Field Research
2.1. Introduction to tourism organisation
2.2. Strategies
2.2.1. Image Plus
2.2.2. Network Plus
2.2.3. Marketing Plus
2.2.4. Sales Lead Plus
2.3. Application of theoretical concept

3. The Future



Table of figures

Figure 1: Source of competitive advantage

“Critically evaluate Porter’s model of generic competitive strategies and apply this model to a hospitality, tourism or leisure organisation of your choice”


“Strategy is the direction and scope of an organisation over the long term, which achieves advantage for the organisation through its configuration of resources within a changing environment and to fulfil stakeholder expectations”

Johnson and Scholes (2002) p10

Strategy plays an important, if not the most important role in an organisation. Not only concerning competition, but regarding all aspects of the business.

Competition has always been the greatest fear of every businessman. Trying to think ahead of the competitors is the only option a successful business owner has. Developing a strategy, adapting and improving it and ensuring that employees are aware of the business’ mission are only a few criteria, which help to gain competitive advantage.

Professor Michael Porter developed the so-called model of “generic competitive strategies”, which will be explained in the first part of this report. Later on the report will outline problems, which occur in Professor Porter’s model.

The second part of the report applies Porter’s concept to a tourism organisation and analyses its relevance for the chosen business.

Part 1 – Theoretical concept

1.1. Porter’s Generic Competitive Strategies

During the 1980s Professor Michael Porter from the Harvard Business School developed the model of generic competitive strategies. He called the strategies generic as they can be undertaken by businesses of any size or type, even it they are non-profit organisations (Hunger and Wheelen [2001] p82).

He argued that companies only have three strategies to choose from:

1. Cost leadership
2. Differentiation
3. Focus

(Lynch [2000] p564)

Porter also believed that before a company decides which strategy to adopt, it must know its competitive scope:“the breadth of its target market, the range of products it wishes to produce, the distribution channels, the type of buyers and geographic areas it wants to serve and the related industries it will be competing in” (Hunger and Wheelen [2001] p82)

The cost leadership strategy is aimed at the broad mass market and requires actions like cost minimisation in Research & Development, service, sales force, advertising and so forth. By doing this the company will sell its product for a smaller price than its competitors, but still achieve reasonable profit. This also creates an entry barrier for new market entrants, as it would be difficult for them to match the low cost of the existing producer. (Hunger and Wheelen [2001] p.83)

The differentiation strategy is aimed at the broad mass market as well, but this time creating a product which must be perceived as unique by its customers, for example through design, image, technology, customer service, dealer network and so on.

The strategy aims to gain customer loyalty and therefore making the buyer insensitive to a high price. This again will also make entry into the market more difficult for new entrants (Hunger and Wheelen [2001] p83)

Hunger and Wheelen (2001, p83) argue, “differentiation strategy generates higher profits as it creates a better entry barrier. Low cost strategy however, creates increases in market share”.

Focus strategy concentrates on serving only a certain niche market as either a cost leader or with a differentiation strategy. “In cost focus a firm seeks a cost advantage in its target market only, in differentiation focus a firm seeks differentiation in its target segment” (Lynch [2000] p. 568)

The following diagram may illustrate Porter’s model a bit more in detail:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1 from Grant (1998) p86

1.2. Problems with Porter’s Generic Competitive Strategies

Like any other model Porter’s strategies show risks and problems. The main issue identified by Professor Porter is the problem of “being stuck in the middle”. He argues that every company must adopt one of his strategies; otherwise it will be left with no competitive advantage. However, Lynch (2000, pp570-571) explains that examples have shown companies that were able to adopt more than one strategy to achieve the desired result.

Hunger and Wheelen (2001, p82) argue that any strategy can be imitated by the competition. They also point out that companies adopting a differentiation strategy have to be careful not to set their prices too high and stretch customer sensitivity towards prices.

Lynch (2000, pp570-571) identified several problems for the low cost and differentiation strategy. First of all, he explains that there cannot be an “option” of low cost leadership, because as soon as one company has become the low cost leader no other company can “choose” to adopt the same strategy. He also mentions that Porter’s strategies assume a still-stand of environmental factors influencing the company, but in reality supply prices change, technology improves and so on.

Regarding differentiation strategy Lynch argues that differentiation cannot be achieved from one day to the other and that the company has to find out which form of differentiation customers demand and are prepared to pay a higher price for.

Lynch outlines that Porter’s model does not provide any information on how to select niche markets concerning competitive scope and focus of the strategies.

Finally, Lynch concludes that Porter’s model may be used as a part of strategy analysis as “it forces exploration of two important aspects of corporate strategy: the role of cost reduction and the use of differentiated products in relation to customers and competitors” (Lynch, [2000], p571)


Excerpt out of 14 pages


Strategic management: Porter’s model of generic competitive strategies - theory and analysis
University Of Wales Institute, Cardiff  (Welsh School of Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure)
Strategic Management
B (66%)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
442 KB
Strategic, Porter’s, Strategic, Management
Quote paper
Alexandra Kossowski (Author), 2003, Strategic management: Porter’s model of generic competitive strategies - theory and analysis, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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