- Volume 19 Issue 4
Firms produce various products that differ by function, design, color, etc. Product proliferation occurs for three different reasons. When there exist economies of scope, the unit cost for a product is lower when it is produced in conjunction with another product than when it is produced separately. Second, consumers are heterogeneous in the sense that they have different tastes, preferences, or price elasticities. A firm can earn more profit by segmenting consumers into different groups with similar characteristics. For example, product proliferation helps a firm increase profits by satisfying various consumer needs more precisely. The third reason for product proliferation is based on strategy. Producing a number of products can not only deter entry by providing few niches, but can also cause a firm to react efficiently to a low-price entry. By producing various products, a firm can reduce niches so that potential entrants have less incentive to enter. Moreover, a firm can produce new products in response to entry, which is called fighting brands. That is, when an entrant tries to attract consumers with a low price, an incumbent introduces a new lower-quality product while maintaining the price of the existing product. The drawback of product proliferation, however, is cannibalization. Some consumers who would have bought a high-price product switch to a low-price product. Moreover, it is possible that proliferation can decrease profits when a new product is less differentiated from a rival’s than is the existing product because of more severe competition. Many studies have analyzed the effect of product line rivalry in the areas of economics and marketing. They show how a monopolist can solve the problem of cannibalization by adjusting quality in a market where consumers differ in their preferences for quality. They find that a consumer who prefers high-quality products will obtain his or her most preferred quality, but a consumer who has not such preference will obtain less than his or her preferred quality to reduce cannibalization. This study analyzed the effects of product line rivalry in a duopoly market with two types of consumers differentiated by quality preference. I assume that the two firms are asymmetric in the sense that an incumbent can produce both high- and low-quality products, while an entrant can produce only a low-quality product. The effects of product proliferation can be explained by comparing the market outcomes when an incumbent produces both products to those when it produces only one product. Compared to the case in which an incumbent produces only a high-quality product, the price of a low-quality product tends to decrease in a consumer segment that prefers low-quality products because of more severe competition. Prices, however, tend to increase in a segment with high preferences because of less severe competition. It is known that when firms compete over prices, it is optimal for a firm to increase its price when its rival increases its price, which is called a strategic complement. Since prices are strategic complements, we have two opposing effects. It turns out that the price of a high-quality product increases because the positive effect of reduced competition outweighs the negative effect of strategic complements. This implies that an incumbent needs to increase the price of a high-quality product when it is also introducing a low-quality product. However, the change in price of the entrant’s low-quality product is ambiguous. Second, compared to the case in which an incumbent produces only a low-quality product, prices tend to increase in a consumer segment with low preferences but decrease in a segment with high preferences. The prices of low-quality products decrease because the negative effect outweighs the positive effect. Moreover, when an incumbent produces both kinds of product, the price of an incumbent‘s low-quality product is higher, even though the quality of both firms’ low-quality products is the same. The reason for this is that the incumbent has less incentive to reduce the price of a low-quality product because of the negative impact on the price of its high-quality product. In fact, the effects of product line rivalry on profits depend not only on changes in price, but also on sales and cannibalization. If the difference in marginal cost is moderate compared to the difference in product quality, the positive effect of product proliferation outweighs the negative effect, thereby increasing the profit. Furthermore, if the cost difference is very large (small), an incumbent is better off producing only a low (high) quality product. Moreover, this study also analyzed the effect of product line rivalry when a firm can determine product characteristics by focusing on the issue of fighting brands. Recently, Korean air and Asiana airlines have established budget airlines called Jin air and Air Busan, respectively, to confront the launching of budget airlines such as Hansung airline and Jeju air, among others. In addition, as more online bookstores have entered the market, a leading off-line bookstore Kyobo began its own online bookstore. Through fighting brands, an incumbent with a high-quality product can increase profits by producing an additional low-quality product when its low-quality product is more differentiated from that of the entrant than is its high-quality product.