Book Cover

One word: differentiation.

Beautifully structured argument.

I actually enjoyed reading a whole book about one concept as I feel that the different examples actually solidified the learning compared to the regular 1000 quotes per page types of books.

Disclaimer: a lot of these notes are subjective and highlighted for personal purposes. There is a high chance I missed a lot of good insights as well as these notes missing some context around it.

General notes

  • The companies caught in red oceans followed a conventional approach, racing to beat the competition by building  a defensible position within the existing industry order. The creators of blue oceans didn't use their competition as their benchmark. Instead of focusing to beat the competition, you focus on making the competition irrelevant by creating a leap in value for buyers and your company.
  • Cost savings are made by eliminating and reducing  the factors an industry competes on. Buyer value is lifted by raising and creating elements the industry has never offered.
  • The innovation is not operational only (cut costs) or functional (make something incrementally better) but strategic as it has to keep costs lower and value exponentially higher.
  • Conventional wisdom assumes that the structure of a company is fixed and that new entrants must play within the given structure.
  • You don't want to steal customers from your competition. You want to grow a market.
  • What is a competitive attribute and what is just a marginal gain for the customer?
  • Is there a compelling reason for a target of mass people to buy it?
  • What are the adoption hurdles in actualising your business idea?
  • Bleeding edge technology does not equal bleeding edge utility
  • The greatest blockers present the greatest opportunities
  • Does your offering fail in the same areas as your competition?
  • What are the greatest blocks to utility across the buyer experience cycle for your customers and noncustomers?

Can you make the user's life...

  • Dramatically simpler?
  • More convenient?
  • More productive?
  • Less risky?
  • More fun?


Strategy Canvas

  • What do companies compete with other companies on?
  • From a market point however, they are all different in the same way.
  • Conventional strategic logic drives companies to offer better solutions than competitors  to existing problems defined by the industry.

The Four Actions Framework

  1. Which of  the factors that the industry takes for granted should be eliminated?

2. Which factors should be reduced well below the industry's standard?

3. Which factors should be created that the industry has never offered?

4. Which factors should be raised well above the industry's standard?

Characteristics of a Good Strategy

Focused feature set

Clear differentiation

Compelling tagline

Commercially compelling opportunities


1. Look across alternative industries

  • Consider not the substitutes but the alternatives that people take for getting the same benefit (restaurant vs cinema)
  • What are the alternatives? Why do some people pick them over the others?

2. Look across strategic groups within industries

  • Understand which factors determine customers' decisions to trade up or down from one group to another?

3. Look across the chain of buyers

  • Cannon switching their target audience from IT department to users.
  • Which buyer does your industry typically focus on?

4. Look across complementary product and service offerings

  • Rarely are services used in isolation. Sometimes other services affect the perceived value as well. (Few cinema owners think about how expensive or hard it is to find a babysitter)
  • Think what happens before, during or after your product is used.
  • The key is to define the total solution buyers seek when they choose a product or a service.

5. Look for emotional and practical brands

  • A lot of brands either consider themselves as appealing to the emotional side or the practical side
  • The reality is that every product is somewhere in between
  • What would be needed to unlock that market? Why is there nonconsumption now?

6. Projecting into the future

  • What trends have a high probability of impacting your industry; are irreversible, and are evolving in a clear trajectory?
  • Given the above, how can you open up an unprecedented customer utility?

How companies usually define their strategies

  • They define their industry similarly and focus on being the best within it
  • Look at their industries through the lens of generally accepted strategy groups and strive to stand out in the strategic group they play in
  • Focus on the same buyer group
  • Define the scope of their products and services by their industry similarly
  • Accept their industry's functional and emotional orientation

Touch-points with the audience

To check for exceptional utility, companies should check whether their offering has removed the greatest blocks to utility across the entire buyer experience cycle for customers and noncustomers.


  • How long does it take to find the product you need?
  • Is the place of purchase attractive and accessible?
  • How secure is the transaction environment?
  • How rapidly can you make a purchase?


  • How long does it take to get the product delivered?
  • How difficult is it to unpack and install the new product?
  • Do buyers have to arrange delivery themselves? If yes, how costly and difficult is this?


  • Does the product require training or expert assistance?
  • Is the product easy to store when not in use?
  • How effective are the product's features and functions?
  • Does your product deliver more than an average user needs? Is it overcharged with bells and whistles?


  • Do you need other products and services to make this product work?
  • If so, how costly are they?
  • How much time do they take?
  • How much pain do they cause?
  • How easy are they to obtain?


  • Does the product require external maintenance?
  • How easy is it to maintain and upgrade the product?
  • How costly is maintenance?


  • Does use of product create waste items?
  • How easy is it to dispose of the product?
  • How costly is disposal?