Turning the Tables on the Competition

Aikido Business Model Pattern

The Aikido business model pattern, named after the Japanese martial art that uses an attacker’s strength against them, is a strategy that allows companies to differentiate themselves by offering something diametrically opposed to the image and mindset of their competitors.

What is the Aikido Business Model Pattern?

The Aikido business model pattern is a strategy where a company offers a product, service, or value proposition that is significantly different from, or even opposed to, the prevailing offerings in the market. By doing so, the company attracts customers who are dissatisfied with the mainstream options or are looking for alternatives that align with their unique preferences or values. This approach allows the company to carve out a distinctive niche in the market and avoid direct competition with established players.

Why is the Aikido Business Model Pattern Important?

Aikido Business Model Pattern

This business model pattern is closely aligned to the Blue Ocean Strategy which seeks to re-design how value is created to produce a highly differentiated value proposition.

The Aikido business model pattern is important because it offers several key benefits for businesses:

  1. Differentiation: By offering something radically different from the competition, companies can set themselves apart and create a unique identity in the market.
  2. Attracting Underserved Customers: The Aikido approach allows companies to tap into customer segments that may feel overlooked or underserved by mainstream offerings.
  3. Avoiding Direct Competition: By taking a contrarian approach, companies can sidestep head-on competition with established players, reducing the risk of being overshadowed or outspent.

Impact on the Business Model

Aikido Business Model Pattern Canvas

The Aikido business model pattern primarily affects the following aspects of a company’s business model:

  • Value Proposition (What You Offer): The main idea here is to come up with something special that stands out because of how the market is currently. This means looking closely at what’s already out there, finding what’s missing or could be done differently, and using that to offer something new. It’s about seeing where you can fit in a way that no one else has thought of, making your product or service the go-to for something specific.
  • Customer Segments (Who You Offer It To): This part is about finding the right people to sell to. It’s not just anyone and everyone, but specific groups that haven’t been fully served by others or are looking for something that better fits their needs. Understanding these groups deeply can help you create something they’ll really want, making them more likely to choose you over others.
  • Key Partnerships (Who You Team Up With): Working with others can really help you get ahead, especially in areas where you might not be the strongest. By teaming up, you can fill in the gaps in what you offer, reach more people, or even create something new together that’s hard for competitors to copy. It’s about picking the right allies who complement what you do and can help push your business forward.

How to Implement the Aikido Business Model Pattern

To successfully implement the Aikido business model pattern, businesses should follow these steps:

  1. Identify Market Gaps: Analyze the current market landscape to identify areas where customers may be underserved or dissatisfied with existing offerings.
  2. Develop a Contrarian Value Proposition: Create a value proposition that directly addresses the identified market gaps and offers a clear alternative to the mainstream options.
  3. Understand Target Customers: Gain a deep understanding of the preferences, values, and pain points of the target customer segments to ensure the value proposition resonates with them.
  4. Communicate the Difference: Clearly communicate the unique aspects of the company’s offering and how it differs from the competition to attract and engage the target audience.

Trigger Questions

  • How can we turn our competitors’ strengths or market trends into opportunities for our business?
  • What unique value proposition can we create by leveraging or redirecting existing market forces?
  • How can we differentiate ourselves by offering a contrasting or complementary approach to industry norms?
  • What partnerships or alliances can we form to capitalize on market shifts or competitor weaknesses?
  • How can we adapt quickly to changing market conditions and stay ahead of the curve?

Examples of the Aikido Business Model Pattern

  1. Nintendo: Nintendo, the Japanese gaming giant, has consistently employed the Aikido business model pattern to differentiate itself from competitors. While other gaming companies like Sony and Microsoft focused on cutting-edge graphics and processing power, Nintendo chose to prioritize innovative gameplay and unique user experiences.

For example, when Nintendo launched the Wii console in 2006, it featured motion-controlled gaming, which was a significant departure from the traditional gamepad-based controls used by competitors. This innovative approach expanded the gaming market to new audiences, such as casual gamers and older adults, who found the intuitive motion controls more engaging and accessible.

Similarly, Nintendo’s handheld consoles, like the Game Boy and Nintendo DS, emphasized portability, durability, and unique game titles rather than competing solely on technical specifications. By focusing on its strengths and avoiding direct competition with more powerful consoles, Nintendo has maintained a strong position in the gaming industry.

  1. Cirque du Soleil: Cirque du Soleil, the Montreal-based entertainment company, has redefined the circus industry by employing the Aikido business model pattern. Traditional circuses often relied on animal acts and individual performers to attract audiences. However, Cirque du Soleil chose to focus on elaborate themed productions, combining acrobatics, dance, music, and storytelling to create a unique and immersive experience for viewers.

By eliminating animal acts and emphasizing human creativity and artistry, Cirque du Soleil differentiated itself from competitors and appealed to a more upscale and adult audience. The company’s productions are known for their stunning visual effects, elaborate costumes, and original music, creating a theatrical experience that goes beyond the traditional circus format.

Cirque du Soleil’s innovative approach has allowed it to command premium ticket prices and establish a strong brand presence in the entertainment industry, without directly competing with traditional circuses.

  1. Swatch: Swatch, the Swiss watchmaker, successfully applied the Aikido business model pattern to revitalize the Swiss watch industry in the 1980s. At the time, Swiss watchmakers were facing intense competition from cheaper, more accurate quartz watches produced by Japanese companies like Seiko and Casio.

Rather than competing head-on with these low-cost competitors, Swatch chose to focus on design, fashion, and affordability. The company introduced a line of colorful, trendy, and inexpensive plastic watches that quickly became popular fashion accessories. Swatch watches were marketed as fun, disposable, and collectable items, with new designs released frequently to keep up with changing fashion trends.

By emphasizing style and affordability over technical precision, Swatch created a new market segment and appealed to younger consumers who viewed watches as fashion statements rather than just timekeeping devices. This approach allowed Swatch to avoid direct competition with low-cost quartz watches while also revitalizing interest in Swiss watchmaking.

These examples demonstrate how companies like Nintendo, Cirque du Soleil, and Swatch have successfully employed the Aikido business model pattern by focusing on their unique strengths, avoiding direct competition, and creating new market spaces. By emphasizing innovation, differentiation, and customer experience, these companies have been able to thrive in challenging and competitive industries.


As businesses continue to navigate an increasingly competitive landscape, the Aikido business model pattern offers a powerful way to stand out and attract customers who are looking for something different. By developing a contrarian value proposition and effectively communicating their unique offerings, companies can create a strong market presence and build a loyal customer base that appreciates their alternative approach.

Companies That Use The Aikido Business Model Pattern

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