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Beyond first or late mover advantages: timed mover advantage

Frank Tian Xie (School of Business, University of South Carolina Aiken, Aiken, South Carolina, USA)
Naveen Donthu (Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)
Wesley J. Johnston (Department of Marketing, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 1 December 2020

Issue publication date: 27 July 2021




This paper aims to present a new framework that describes the relationship among market entry order and timing, the advantages accruing to first-movers and late-movers, entry timing premium (ETP), marketing strategy and enduring market performance of the firms. The framework, empirically tested using data from 241 business executives, expands extant research into new territory beyond first- and late-mover advantages in an attempt to reconcile a few streams of research in the area and provides an entry related, strategic assessment tool (ETP) for the managers. Contribution to marketing strategy theory and managerial implications are also presented.


Participants included informants in a firm’s strategic business unit who were the most familiar with a new product’s commercial launch, market condition at launch, competitor offerings, marketing activities and capabilities and eventual integration into or withdrawal from the product’s portfolio. Therefore, for the survey, the study targeted chief executive officers, vice presidents of marketing or sales, product or sales managers, general managers and regional managers. Both preference bias (Narus, 1984) and survivor biases among the respondents were addressed.


The research result of this study reveals two very significant aspects of marketing and marketing strategies. First, the importance of financial, pricing and cost strategies further attests to the fiercely competitive nature of the global market today and the tendency for firms to commoditize most products and services. An effective financial and pricing strategy, coupled with a higher level of ETP, is capable of leading a firm to initial market success in the product-market in which it competes. Both ETP (a positional advantage and resource of the firm) and financial and pricing strategies (a deliberate strategic decision of the management) are important to achieve this goal.

Research limitations/implications

This study is limited in several ways. The effects of entry order and timing on market performance could be dependent on the types of industries and types of product categories involved. However, as the hypotheses were well supported, the “industry specific” factors would provide “fine-tuning” in the future study. Second, the nature of the product (goods or services) may also present varying effects on the relationship studied (for differences between manufacturing and service firms in pioneering advantages, see Song et al., 1999). Services’ intangible nature, difficulty in protecting property rights, high involvement of boundary-spanning employees and customers, high reliance on delivery and quality, and ease of imitation may alter the proposed relationships in the model and the moderating effects. Third, although this study used a “retrospective” protocol approach in the data collection by encouraging respondents to recall market, product and business information, this study is not longitudinal. Lack of longitudinal data in any study involving strategic planning, strategy execution and the long-term effects is no doubt a weakness. In addition, due to peculiarity and complexity with regard to regulation and other aspects in pharmaceutical and other industries, the theory might be limited to a certain extent.

Practical implications

In all, the integrated framework contributes to the understanding of the intricate issues surrounding first-mover advantage, late-mover advantage, entry order and timing and the role of marketing strategy. The framework provides practitioners guidance as to when to enter a product-market to gain advantageous positions and how to maintain that advantage. Firms that use a deliberate late-mover strategy could also benefit from the research finding in mapping out their strategic courses of action.


This study believes that the halo effect surrounding first-mover advantage may have obscured the visions of some researchers and managers, and the pursuit of a silver bullet has led to frenzied interests in becoming a “first-mover” or a deliberate “late-mover”. The theoretical framework, which is substantiated by empirical testing, invalidates the long-held claim that entry of a particular kind (first-movers or late-movers) yields any unique competitive advantage. It is a firms’ careful selection of marketing strategies and careful execution of the strategies through effective operational tactics that would lead to enduring competitive advantage, under an adequate level of ETP.



The authors gratefully acknowledge the comments and suggestions from Kofi Dadzie, Shaker Zahra, Peter Golder, George Moschis, Venkatesh Shankar and Susan Houghton. The article is based on the first author’s doctoral dissertation at Georgia State University, and the research was supported by a dissertation grant from Georgia State.


Xie, F.T., Donthu, N. and Johnston, W.J. (2021), "Beyond first or late mover advantages: timed mover advantage", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 36 No. 7, pp. 1163-1175.



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