Ownable Space: "The Other White Space"

Finding sustainable and profitable growth opportunities remains the Holy Grail for all companies – whether in highly developed and competitive markets in Europe, or developing, high growth economies like India. While finding the white space – that untapped terrain in a market – is a common approach to figuring out where to play, a better way to win is to focus on “ownable space” opportunities.

Ownable space centers on a company’s right to win in a given market, grounded in “heritage” competencies or competencies you purposely go after. There are three basic approaches that can be utilized to identify your ownable space opportunities:

  • Claim your ownable space: going after unmet customer needs or market areas that are underserved, using your right to win as the competitive lever
  • Create your ownable space: use your competencies to drive and build market opportunities in a way that uniquely leverages your core strengths
  • Capture your ownable space: stretch and extend the limits of your capabilities to take market share away from competitors

Some of the best success stories today are of companies that are aggressively pursuing ownable ways to grow their businesses in markets characterized by intense competition, if not spirited rivalries. For example:

  • Unilever has claimed a significant share in the crowded hair care market with its unique Clear Scalp & Hair Beauty Therapy range. Unilever’s Clear focused on scalp nourishment – a space no one occupied – and promoted the brand as the right foundation for strong and beautiful hair. Timing was also fortuitous. Competitor Procter & Gamble’s popular Pantene range had lost ground, allowing brands such as Clear to capture some of this coveted market.
  • Global chemical giant BASF is aiming to drive and create new opportunities in health and nutrition taking advantage of the vast growth in the aging population, and related demand for products in such critical areas as cardiovascular health. The firm has built upon competencies in nutritionals and extended its reach in the omega-3 space, most recently via its acquisition of Pronova.
  • Samsung has bravely gone after the untouchable Apple iPhone directly in the iconic brand’s backyard – being first to market with new, user friendly features. Samsung Galaxy S III offers users a very simple way to share and exchange videos and more by a simple back to back touch of phones, while directly highlighting Apple’s slowness in bringing new features to market.

Understanding your ability to own and defend an opportunity space is key to any significant market entry and growth initiative. It is dangerously easy to overstate competencies that drive your ability to win and underestimate your competitors. Identifying the gaps you need to close to improve and elevate your competencies, as well as a plan to defend and distance yourself from competition, is the pathway to making a market space truly ownable and strengthening your ability to win.

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