What Is a Market Leader?

A market leader is a company with the largest market share in an industry that can often use its dominance to affect the competitive landscape and direction the market takes. Such a company may be the first to develop a product or service, which would allow it to set the tone for messaging, define the ideal product characteristics, and to become considered by the market as the brand that consumers associate with the offering itself.

Market Leader Explained

A company can establish itself as the market leader by being the first to offer a product or service. The product or service must be novel enough to attract a consumer base and then the company must keep on top of consumer preferences to maintain leadership. If a company enters a market as a competitor to the first mover(s), it can aggressively market its own version of the product with differentiated features. Competitors that seek market leadership status may invest heavily in market research and product development, and then use consumer information to develop attributes that improve an existing product.

Examples of Market Leaders

Maintaining a dominant market share requires a company to not only retain its existing customers by building brand loyalty, but also attract new customers who may be unfamiliar with the product or service. The company may also attract the customers of competitors by figuring out the ideal combination of quality and price. In this modern age of the internet, it is easy to identify consumer-oriented market leaders, such as Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook. In capital goods, Boeing and Caterpillar are two examples.

Market leaders have to be careful when it comes to how they use and obtain their market share. If a company becomes too dominant in the market or if it seems to be abusing its position it may become subject to anti-trust lawsuits. Microsoft once became a target of regulators, for example. Also, from an investor's perspective, a market leader may not necessarily be the most profitable. Despite having the most market share, it could be the case that the company's total expenses including product R&D, manufacturing costs, marketing costs, etc. are too high to make the company the most profitable among its competitors.