Ken Sawka

Recent Posts

What Amazon’s Acquisition of Whole Foods Says About Competitive Strategy

Posted by Ken Sawka

Jun 27, 2017 12:42:59 PM

There are countless ways to look at the implications of Amazon’s proposed $13.7 billion takeover of Whole Foods, that it’s the latest salvo in the battle between Amazon and Walmart to be the one place where everyone shops for everything,  that it’s a disruption to the supply chain model in the grocery business, or that it’s nothing more than a marriage of convenience to save Whole Foods from the ire of its activist shareholders.

But, for competitive strategists, there’s really only one question to ask: how does this deal affect the competitive intensity in my industry? 

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Topics: Competitive Intelligence, Consumer Goods, Brand Insights, Competitive Strategy

Walmart Takes Advantage of the Commute Home with New Delivery System

Posted by Ken Sawka

Jun 13, 2017 1:06:29 PM

Walmart, the largest private employer in the United States, is not likely to appear on one of those “ten best places to work” lists anytime soon. It has a reputation for paying very low wages, and has been targeted by activists for alleged unfair work practices.

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Topics: Competitive Intelligence, Brand Insights, Competitive Strategy

New Year's Resolutions for the Competitive Strategist

Posted by Ken Sawka

Dec 19, 2016 10:38:10 AM

As 2016 ends, few would argue that most businesses are in for a roller coaster ride in 2017.  The United States is set for a hard-right turn politically, the Brexit process is facing new uncertainties regarding its duration and manner, and accusations of Russian cyber espionage and China’s muscle-flexing in the Asia Pacific region foreshadow turbulence in international relations. Longer-term demographic shifts in developed and developing economies will continue to affect wealth patterns and create new consumption opportunities.  What are strategists to do?

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Topics: Competitive Intelligence, Competitive Strategy, Early Warning

Is Amazon Becoming a Bank?

Posted by Ken Sawka

Aug 23, 2016 3:54:49 PM

UPDATE: Wells Fargo and Amazon ended their partnership on 08/31/2016 with minimal comment. The partnership fell under criticism from consumer advocates and organizations promoting affordable education.

Last month, Amazon.com entered the student loan business in a partnership with Wells Fargo, offering lower rates for student loans to Amazon customers who subscribe to the online retailer’s Prime Student service.  Wells Fargo will cut half a percentage point from its interest rate on student loans to Amazon Prime Student members, who also get benefits such as free two-day shipping and access to movies, TV shows, and online photo storage.

Does this deal signal what many have felt is the inevitable entry of technology companies into the financial services industry, or is it a convenient and mutually beneficial partnership between two companies with common interests?

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Topics: Brand Insights, Financial Services, Market Analysis, Competitive Strategy

Can Apple TV Outshine Netflix and Traditional TV Broadcasters?

Posted by Ken Sawka

Aug 3, 2016 11:41:11 AM

Apple has long been expected to “revolutionize” how we watch television.  Ever since it launched Apple TV in 2006, speculation has been rife that Apple would become a major force in video production and distribution.

Apple’s refresh of Apple TV last year - improving voice search with Siri and adding a bunch more apps - did little to quell that speculation.

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Topics: Brand Insights, Innovation, Market Analysis, Technology/Telecomm, Product Positioning, Competitive Strategy

Of Course Nobody Saw Brexit or Donald Trump Coming

Posted by Ken Sawka

Jul 6, 2016 2:22:24 PM

I recently ran a scenario-based strategic planning engagement with a European online entertainment company. In it, we created five future, plausible scenarios that described what the external operating environment could look like for our client in the next five to seven years. 

In one scenario, the global entertainment industry underwent massive consolidation as technological advances enabled cheap, on-demand entertainment of all sorts that provided the largest entertainment companies an incredible opportunity. In another, trade wars broke out restricting the free flow of intellectual property, leading to a proliferation of “black market” entertainment operations in which shady operators offered products based on questionable access to content. 

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Topics: Competitive Intelligence, Scenario Analysis, Competitive Strategy

Physician Heal Thyself: Competitive Strategy Consulting Faces Disruption

Posted by Ken Sawka

Apr 20, 2016 3:28:12 PM

At Fuld + Company, we pride ourselves on giving objective, evidence-based advice on matters of competitive strategy to some of the world’s largest and most innovative companies. But we now potentially find ourselves facing the same sort of competitive disruption that our clients typically call us to help them solve.

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Topics: Competitive Intelligence, Innovation, New Market Entry, Competitive Strategy

Starbucks Customer Loyalty Program: It's Not You, It's Us

Posted by Ken Sawka

Feb 25, 2016 12:30:11 PM

Starbucks recently announced changes to its popular customer rewards program My Starbucks Rewards (soon to be known as simply Starbucks Rewards).  As a loyal Starbucks customer, I received the email announcing these changes, which informed me that starting in April, I’ll earn two “stars” for every dollar I spend on coffee, food, drinks, mugs, and more.  Starbucks even provided a handy table so that I could compare the old rewards program with the new:

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Topics: Consumer Goods, Brand Insights, Market Analysis, Competitive Strategy

Dell Acquires EMC: Heavy Clouds, No Rain

Posted by Ken Sawka

Oct 27, 2015 12:06:53 PM


On October 12, Dell announced its plans to acquire EMC Corporation for $67 billion
, the largest technology industry deal to date, a deal clearly intended to bolster Dell’s ability to compete in the increasingly lucrative corporate data center market. This move follows HP’s split into two organizations which itself was engineered to free HP’s enterprise business from the low-margin shackles of its consumer PC and printer business.  While the Dell-EMC deal will accelerate the transition of corporate data assets to the cloud, the new entity could face significant challenges that hamper its ability to make it rain. 

Our experience conducting war games for Global Fortune 100 companies and analyzing competition in enterprise IT has made it clear that the market is undergoing a dramatic transformation. Our analysis, conducted over an extensive period of time and involving a variety of players, demonstrates that this transformation is characterized by several confluent factors that the combined EMC-Dell will have to navigate to achieve success: 

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Topics: Competitive Intelligence, War Games, Brand Insights, Market Analysis, Technology/Telecomm, Merger and Acquisition

What an Eight-Dollar Juice Can Tell Us About Competitive Strategy

Posted by Ken Sawka

Aug 6, 2015 9:54:00 AM

I bought a smoothie from a food truck today and found it to be a unique and highly rewarding experience. Now, you may be saying to yourself, “did Ken just wake up from a 20-year nap? Smoothies and food trucks aren’t exactly the latest craze, especially in Boston, where food trucks and smoothies are about as ubiquitous as Dunkin Donuts.” (OK, maybe not quite)

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Topics: Competitive Intelligence, Consumer Goods, Brand Insights, Market Analysis, Competitive Strategy

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