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Management Science 60, 11 (2014) 2794-2815
Competitive positioning is a central, yet understudied, topic in strategy. Understanding positioning requires understanding two distinct mappings: how underlying policies are transformed into positions, and how positions are transformed into market performance. A complete treatment of positioning requires incorporating organizational design in the presence of policy interdependence; consumer choice in the presence of trade-offs among multiple product attributes; and competitive interactions among firms. We develop a model that integrates these elements. We show that in a multiattribute setting, trade-offs have critical, nonmonotonic effects on a range of strategy questions including the relationship between positions that are operationally efficient and those that remain viable in the face of competition as well as the concentration of market share in the industry. Of particular interest are implications for firm heterogeneity. We show that increases in business policy interdependence can decrease positioning heterogeneity among firms in an industry, depending on the nature of trade-offs. We also show that the relationship between strategy heterogeneity and positioning heterogeneity is moderated by the extent of policy interdependence.