Red Ocean vs. Blue Ocean Strategies in Website Marketing

In their bestselling book Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne argue that companies need to go beyond competing.

While traditional competition-based strategies are necessary, they are not sufficient to sustain long-term high performance. Entrepreneurs need to switch from Red Ocean strategies to Blue Ocean strategies to make a dent in the world.

What Is the Difference Between Red and Blue Ocean Strategies?

When companies operate within a known market space, this is referred to as a “Red Ocean” business strategy. Suppose a business is in the services or e-commerce industries. Many entrepreneurs in this space follow the “online provider/ supplier” business model, where companies with little product or service differentiation are locked in a battle against the competition.

“Blue Ocean” business strategies are about creating new markets; for example, introducing a radically new product or offering an old product to a new market where it finds a different use. In “Blue Ocean” strategies, demand for a product or service doesn’t exist. It is created by the companies that enter it first.

Two Incredible Examples of Blue Ocean Strategies

1. Amazon

Jeff Bezos identified the internet as a growing technology trend. He asked himself: What can you build with this technology that wouldn’t exist otherwise? An average bookstore can hold two to five thousand books. That’s infinitesimal compared to the three million books active worldwide in print at any given moment in 1997. The internet allowed Amazon to inaugurate the online commerce space with the best bookstore ever existed in human history.

2. Tony Robbins

The Tony Robbins brand is the epitome of Blue Ocean marketing. Tony Robbins created a market for his personal brand by using his books, seminars, infomercials, and podcasts to reach millions of people interested in self-development online. Even in 1996, you could read testimonials, buy his books, join his discussion board, and register for his events, all via his website.

Website Strategy Tactics for Red and Blue Ocean Businesses

Throughout my career, I have worked with companies that follow Red Ocean as well as Blue Ocean strategies. I learned that operating in a Red Ocean space doesn’t necessarily guarantee demand for your product or service and easy access to clients.

Red Ocean marketing strategies require a business to differentiate effectively on various points of value and price. Experience and long market presence also come into play. This can make Google a challenging channel for newcomers unless you take specific actions:

  • Differentiating using visual branding
  • Using the founders’ personal brands to showcase expertise
  • Putting in place an SEO content strategy that targets the awareness stage of the customer funnel

For Blue Ocean businesses (e.g., entrepreneurs with personal brands, new and innovative SaaS, etc.), the website marketing strategy should educate the market on the use and value of the product or service. That is no small feat, but the following tactics can help:

  • Creating a digital hub for your top-funnel content (podcasts, vlog, blog, events, etc.) to make people stay on your website
  • Targeting Google searches that indicate problem awareness, sometimes with different words than what you would use
  • Getting positive PR can move your audience from the awareness to the consideration stage by providing validation

Final Thoughts

Both Blue and Red Ocean strategies come with their unique challenges and advantages. In my experience, though, they don’t limit your business or marketing potential. I’ve worked with Blue Ocean companies that failed miserably and Red Ocean companies that are doing great (and vice versa). Strategies after all, are only limited by their execution.