Large companies offer wide range of products and services. They may not be leader in every category. There are some markets in which they are under performers and thus susceptible to flanking attacks. Flanking company targets this weakness forcing the company to re-allocated the resources to keep the market or end up losing it to flanking company.
Flank attack can be used to replace the competitor’s not so strong product or to serve uncovered needs of the market.
Salient features of flank attack:
It does not confront competitors in open
Gains market presence stealthily before competitor realizes (surprise element)
Follow through once the leading position is established
Flank attack does not require new product, but different enough to capture latent needs of the market
Flank attack is generally employed by nimble, innovative business against established players.
Auto-industry in 1970, when Japanese car-makers exploited the vulneblitrity of US car-makers in small, fuel-efficient car segment
In 1980s, Canon took over Xerox’s copier market by focusing on small size copier market that could not afford Xerox’s large copiers.