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Price Leadership: A Guide for Emerging Businesses

Maciej Wilczyński
Managing Partner, Founder Valueships
November 3, 2023

The concept of price leadership divides brands into two groups: leaders and followers. One makes the key moves, and the other imitates them. As a result -the market is formed. 

But why does this happen? 

Where does the secret lie?

This is our main topic today. So, let's explore it and learn everything you need to know about this phenomenon.

Price Leadership Definition

Price leadership is a situation where a dominant firm with a significant market share sets prices that others in the industry follow suit. It works really simple - a market leader initiates a price change - let's say, it lowers them slightly - and other firms collusively or independently adjust their prices to match and maintain market stability.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Price Leadership

There are many advantages of price leadership, including market stability, profitability for the leader, and reduced barriers to entry for smaller firms. However, it also presents disadvantages, like reduced competition and the potential for monopoly, the possibility of higher prices for consumers, and legal issues. 

Let's understand the nuances.

✅ Market Stability and Avoiding Price Wars

Price leadership helps maintain stability in the market, but it can do much more than that. 

When a dominant firm sets the price, it can even prevent disruptive price wars. Smaller firms often follow their lead and, as a result, avoid rapid, unpredictable changes, whether they adjust to higher or lower prices. Such stability benefits both businesses and consumers.

✅ Higher Profits for the Price Leader

The price leader with a large market share can set prices to maximize its own profits. 

By setting a higher price that competitors follow, it can achieve higher margins and increased profitability. Of course, we are not talking about setting cosmically high prices because such an action usually will not look good to customers and will not have the intended effect.

✅ Reduced Barriers to Entry

Often, price leadership can make it easier for smaller companies to enter an industry. 

Smaller firms can follow the established price leader and reduce the need for extensive research and development into pricing strategies. So instead of spending time and effort on their own research, they follow a guide, like students on a tour.

And what about the cons of price leadership?

👎🏼 Reduced Competition and Potential Monopoly

Well, price leadership, especially in an oligopolistic market structure, can stifle competition and potentially lead to a monopoly situation. 

If a dominant player controls the majority of the market at a large scale and can set as high prices of products as they want, it becomes difficult for small firms to survive, not to mention enter the sector.

👎🏼Consumer Harm and High Prices

While price leadership may benefit the price leader firm, it can also harm consumers by leading to consistently higher prices. 

Smaller companies often follow the price, and this can result in less competitive pricing and force clients to pay more for similar products or services. Therefore, discontent in the market may rise as fast as... raise prices.

👎🏼Potential for Price Fixing

Price leadership doesn't have to come up naturally - it can be the result of collusion. And then it can raise antitrust concerns. 

When companies in an industry agree to follow one company lead, it may be perceived as conspiracy and price fixing, which is illegal in many jurisdictions. This can result in legal challenges and fines for the companies involved.

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Types of Price Leadership

There are three types of price leadership: barometric, collusive, and dominant. What are they, and what are their examples?


Barometric price leadership is a situation where no single firm explicitly acts as the leader because it doesn’t have a majority of the market share. Rather, here the prevailing market conditions and dynamics set the pricing trend. In this model, pricing decisions are influenced by various external factors, and firms in the industry collectively adjust their prices in response to changes in these market conditions.

💡 Example: The Airline Industry

The airline industry often exhibits characteristics of the barometric model. Prices for airline tickets can fluctuate based on factors like fuel prices, demand, seasonality, and competitive pressures. When one airline reduces its fares, others in the industry may do the same. However, no single airline dictates the pricing strategy for the entire industry.


Collusive price leadership is a more coordinated approach, where firms cooperate within an oligopoly and agree to follow a dominant player's pricing strategy. In this model, the leading firm explicitly sets the price, and others in the industry comply with this arrangement.

💡 Example: OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries)

OPEC is a classic example of collusive price leadership. Member countries, led by dominant oil producers like Saudi Arabia, collectively agree on production levels and pricing for crude oil. When the dominant player sets a particular oil price, other member nations often follow suit and influence the global price of oil.


Another example of price leadership is dominance. It occurs when one company or firm in an industry has a significant market share. This firm explicitly sets the price for products or services, and other smaller firms in the industry adjust their prices.

💡 Example: Apple

Apple's role in the smartphone industry serves as an example of dominant price leadership. As one of the market leaders with a substantial market share, Apple often sets the price for its new iPhone models. Competing smartphone manufacturers adjust their prices and strategies to remain competitive with Apple. Apple's pricing decisions significantly influence the pricing dynamics in the industry.

Price Leadership Best Practices

Well, now that we know the pros, cons, and examples of price leadership, it's time for best practices that will help you work with a price leader in the market.

  • Understand Your Costs

Before setting prices, understand all of your cost structure. Make sure your prices cover your costs and leave room for a reasonable profit margin. As a result, you will determine the price for your goods that won't be too low.

  • Monitor the Market

Keep a close eye on your industry and competitors. Understand market trends, consumer behavior, your competitors' pricing strategies, and observe leader activities. That way, you won't be left behind.

  • Segment Your Customers

Recognize that different customer segments may have different price sensitivities. Therefore, tailor your pricing strategies to each segment to maximize revenue while maintaining customer satisfaction.

  • Competitive Benchmarking

Regularly benchmark your prices against those of your competitors. Be prepared to adjust your prices if necessary. This practice allows you to fine-tune your pricing strategy based on the real-time performance of your competitors, ensuring that your pricing remains both attractive to customers and aligned with your business objectives.

  • Transparency

When following a leader, it's worth remembering to be transparent. You may be tempted to lower your prices only on the surface and, in this way, show you adjust to the dominant companies’ pricing, but this is not a good option. Hidden fees or unexpected charges can erode trust. So opt for the opposite solution - clear, straightforward pricing.

  • A/B Testing

Experiment with different pricing strategies to see what works best for your specific market and audience. A/B testing can help you fine-tune your pricing approach. Systematically comparing the performance of different models or pricing structures provides valuable information on customer preferences, price elasticity, and the most effective pricing strategies to maximize revenue and profitability.

  • Customer Feedback

Listen to customer feedback on pricing. Your raising and lowering prices may not always appeal to your audience, so sometimes it's worth going your own way. Either way, understand the concerns and expectations of those around you and don't downplay them. Their feedback can provide insight into price adjustments.

  • Customer Loyalty Programs

Implement loyalty programs that reward repeat customers. Offering discounts, exclusive access, or other incentives can build long-term relationships and encourage customer retention. In addition, these programs provide valuable data that you can use to boost customer loyalty and their lifetime value even more.

  • Regular Reviews

Price leadership is not a one-time decision. You must regularly review and adapt your pricing strategy to changing conditions and preferences. This continuous evaluation will ensure that your pricing stays in line with the market and your customers and will allow you to quickly fix what doesn't sit well with your audience.

  • Avoid Price Wars

While being competitive is important, you should avoid engaging in destructive price wars with competitors. Such wars can reduce profitability and are often unsustainable, so they can end up doing you more harm than good, and that doesn't make sense. Instead, do your job, observe closely, and react quickly.

The Future of Price Leadership Model

The future of this model is likely to be characterized by increased use of data-driven pricing strategies. With advancements in technology and the availability of big data, companies can adopt dynamic and personalized pricing tactics.

Moreover, artificial intelligence and machine learning will enable real-time adjustments based on factors such as demand, competitor pricing, and customer behavior.

Also, ethical considerations around pricing, including transparency and fairness, will gain prominence. Therefore, in this future landscape, price leadership will not only rely on market share but also on the ability to harness data, utilize new technologies, and deliver exceptional customer value.

Become a Price Leader with Valueships

At Valueships, we offer a comprehensive range of services to assist your business in setting the right prices in the market and optimizing your revenue. 

Our strategy consulting services can help refine your business model. So whether you're considering adding subscription services to your offerings or exploring new monetization options, we can provide tailored advice.

Sometimes setting the lowest price in the sector is not the best idea. But you can always bet on the proven way, i.e. value-selling approach. We can help you with this powerful sales technique as we assist clients in uncovering and effectively showcasing the unique value of their products and services.

Trust Valueships if you're looking for help with pricing at an appropriate, competitive level. 

Our expertise and your potential can win this market.

Gain the Advantages of Price Leadership

Price leadership can become central to your business - it sets the tone for pricing strategies and competitive dynamics. Companies looking to succeed must master the nuances of the different types of this model and adjust their operations accordingly. Our best practices should help with this, so don't be afraid to experiment with them.

If you have any questions about pricing or don't know how to set up pricing strategies for your products, our Valueships team is ready to help you.

Contact us and improve your position in the market!

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Maciej Wilczyński
Managing Partner, Founder Valueships

Expert in B2B pricing, monetization and value-based selling strategies. Over the past year, he has completed over 40 consulting projects in Europe. Prior to founding Valueships, he worked at McKinsey & Company, mainly in the TelCo, software, and banking industries. He completed his doctorate in pricing in SaaS start-ups at the University of Economics in Wrocław, where he also lectures.

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Maciej Wilczyński
Managing Partner, Founder Valueships

Expert in B2B pricing, monetization and value-based selling strategies. Over the past year, he has completed over 40 consulting projects in Europe. Prior to founding Valueships, he worked at McKinsey & Company, mainly in the TelCo, software, and banking industries. He completed his doctorate in pricing in SaaS start-ups at the University of Economics in Wrocław, where he also lectures.