Competitive advantage in marketing is something that a business either has or does that gives them a strategic edge in competing with its peers in the market.
Competitive advantages don’t instantly equate into success, but they do (as the name suggests) supply a head-start that if capitalised on can result in more profit.
The thing with competition is that is happens at close quarters.
In a market, not only do your prospects and customers get to see your products and services, but also your peers (competitors).
And as any master craftsman will tell you, reverse engineering is the contemporary workman’s best tool for hacking into guarded value.
So, the best competitive advantages therefore are the ones that cannot be easily be imitated i.e. inimitable.
Hence, why companies are so protective with their trade secrets.
In design or engineering based disciplines, competitive advantages are often protected by legal patents.
Legally protective exclusive registration rights for the use of specific designs, patterns or assemblies.
Take Google’s PageRank for example,
It’s the invention of Larry Page, co-founder of Google.
It’s the technical basis upon which Google Search engine ranks pages within its search results.
Google’s founders have used their patent as a legally enforceable deterrent for other companies or individuals copying their method of search ranking to make a competitive product.
Because of the commercial popularity of their invention, the patent gives Google a layer of protection that prevents copycat attacks of its flagship product.
For further reading, here’s the book on competitive advantage: https://research.aston.ac.uk/en/publications/marketing-strategy-and-competitive-positioning-4