What is MOAT and why does it matter for brands?

April 8, 2024
5 min

What is MOAT and why does it matter?

There is evidence that the Ancient Egyptians were the first people to use moats to protect castles. The most famous example is in Buhen, which is now submerged in Lake Nubia, Sudan. Around 4,000 years ago it was a thriving copper producing city on The Nile’s West Bank. 

The ancient Egyptians built a moat with the intention of warding off invaders. Later in Medieval Europe, deep and broad ditches were built around castles and towns to provide defence against attacking armies. 

Moats made access to the walls of the castle difficult for siege weapons such as battering rams and catapults. Those moats which were the widest offered the best defence.

But nowadays brands are talking about “Moat" refering to a business's ability to maintain competitive advantages over its competitors to protect its long-term profits and market share. 

Below are some categories to identify yourself. 

A. Economic Moat: 

  1. Low-cost advantage - This entails focusing on the price point of your raw materials to maintain a competitive edge
  2. Superior operations - Efficient and superior operational practices directly contribute to increased profitability.
  3. Proprietary technology - This refers to methods protected by patents, preventing competitors from duplicating your advantages
  4. Size advantage - This occurs when larger-scale production results in lower input costs per unit
  5. Soft moat - These can be created by exceptional management or a unique corporate culture
  6. Example - Apple - Apple's primary moat lies in creating groundbreaking products such as the iPod, iPhone, and iPad that redefine entire markets. Its secondary moat is reinforced by its marketing strategies, design excellence, and user-friendly interfaces.

B. Network Effects

  1. When a product or service increases in value as more people use it, such as social media platforms.
  2. Startups that leverage the network effect can acquire new users with relatively lower advertising costs because the existing user base signals value due to its size.
  3. Example - Companies like Google, Uber, Instagram, and WhatsApp exemplify successful utilization of network effects.

C. Brand Moat:

  1. Building brand affinity: It begins with understanding your target audience. By gaining insights into their behavior, needs, preferences, and motivations, you can tailor your brand messaging to resonate with them effectively.
  2. Role of Media in creating a Moat: Utilize media as a powerful tool to amplify your brand's message and establish a competitive advantage.
  3. Content creation: Consistently delivering valuable content that resonates with your target audience can position you as an industry expert, giving you a competitive edge in the market.
  4. Example - Nike, a brand that tells a compelling story of determination, achievement, and pushing boundaries.

D. Switching Costs: 

  1. Apple's ecosystem exemplifies switching costs well. The more Apple products you invest in, the higher the costs associated with switching to another platform.
  2. Loyalty programs, for instance, achieve switching costs through sunk costs.
  3. From a strategic standpoint, you might ask yourself, 'How can I enhance the stickiness of my product?' and 'How can I elevate the costs, whether physical or psychological, of switching to a competitor?'"

E. Community MOAT:

  1. Cultivating a community can unlock remarkable competitive advantages and establish a superior business model
  2. Enthusiastic members facilitate new member acquisition, leading to reduced CACs
  3. Community members exhibit reluctance to abandon the community, thereby boosting member retention and enhancing CLV
  4. Mutual support among community members results in high gross margins by reducing the cost of service
  5. Example - Ather: Ather exemplifies this concept by fostering a vibrant community around its electric vehicles, showcasing how building a strong community can lead to substantial business success

Why is Moat important?

  • Key strategy for investors: These companies often provide more predictable and sustainable returns over the long term
  • Economic Stability: Source of competitive advantage in various economic conditions, making a company less vulnerable to downturns
  • Profitability: This can indicate a company’s ability to maintain or increase its profitability over time

So what is your D2C brands MOAT?