Monday, January 26, 2004

Bird Strategy

The birds compete for the pieces of cracker thrown upon the ground by the Asian family next to me. The pigeons try unsuccessfully to eat the cracker bits. Too big to swallow whole and too tough for their beaks to crack, they pick them up, shake them, and toss them to the ground. Strutting from crumb to crumb, their pretense is haughty, but their actions are pathetic.

A sparrow joins the assemblage. Darting quickly among the slow-moving pigeons, the sparrow deftly seizes the cracker pieces, and with its small sharp beak at one of the corners or along the edges, it breaks the cracker into the small pieces it can eat. In an instant, one cracker piece is disposed of, and the sparrow moves on to the other pieces the pigeons still toss around with no effect. The sparrow with its speed, small beak, and strategy is eating the pigeons' lunch.

The pigeons notice that there are a few crumbs left by the sparrow as it broke the cracker pieces apart. With typical bobbing head motions, the pigeons deftly finish off what the sparrow has left.

A western jay, smaller than the pigeons but bigger than the sparrow and very aggressive, streaks in from nowhere, picks up one of the large pieces, and flies elsewhere to eat. Momentarily, the intruder has disrupted the scenario. But, quickly, the sparrow and pigeons resume their roles.

Leadership in a market does not necessarily mean that you have the largest market share, or

have the highest revenue, although those may follow. Leadership in a market means establishing the "rules of the game" by which competition is "played." Sometimes, it means establishing the shape and size of the playing field.

The crumbs have been thrown upon the ground. The pigeons are only good for cleaning up. The sparrows have been able to develop niche markets, fragmenting and further defining the markets so that they can be attacked.

But, beware the western jays that have also seen the opportunity and are swooping in to take the prizes home.

Who will define your market?

Paul Schumann

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