W.L. Gore

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Case Study #1 – W.L. Gore and Associates


W.L. Gore and Associates is a company started in 1958 by Bill and Vieve Gore. Bill Gore was a prior employee of Du Pont who saw innovative ways to work with a substance known as PTFE (Teflon). When Du Pont was not interested in exploring his ideas, he started his own business.

W.L. Gore and Associates has diverse, high-tech product lines that range from electronic products, to vascular grafts, to apparel, and also to dental floss. The range of products shown by the company can be credited in part to an unconventional management style, which they term "lattice" structure, under which the company is organized. In this structure, there is no hierarchy and little organized direction, so employees are free to explore their own projects and create their own goals.

This case study will first perform a SWOT analysis of the W.L. Gore company, then identify how certain key issues in marketing are handled within the organization. Concepts explored will include strategic marketing management, marketing ecocyles, and marketing segmentation. Finally, some conclusions and recommendations will be made regarding the information gleaned from the analysis.

SWOT Analysis

The first and most apparent strength of the W.L. Gore company is its diversity of products. The company is able to market to a variety of industries on a global level, including electronics, medical industry, IT, aeronautics, and telecommunications. This diversity affords the company some protection financially should there be any negativity in a given market segment.

Another important strength of the company is its strong growth and financial performance over the long-term. According to the information presented, it has been profitable for 37 years and has consistently ranked in the top 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies for return on assets and sales.

One final strength that W.L. Gore possesses is its large quantity of patents, proprietary intellectual information, and trade secrets. Having high-tech products with this sort of piece attached to it effectively creates a barrier of entry for competitors. This, in turn, helps the company strengthen its market share.

The main limitation that W.L. Gore faces revolves around that fact that their products stem from a single source of technology – PTFE. By working only with this substance, the company limits itself to some degree because of its dependency on PTFE. I think this limits the company's future potential for growth, especially if competitors begin to use some more advanced variation of the product or if industries in which W.L. Gore is present begin using better technology.

Another weakness is the company's size as compared to its competitors. Additional research outside of the article indicated some of its competitors are companies like Worthington Industries and 3M, both of which are many times larger than W.L. Gore. This may limit its ability to compete effectively at some point.

An area for opportunity and growth was mentioned in the information while relating a story regarding product champions at the organization. W.L. Gore was trying a new product that was a hydrocarbon leak-protection cable. This cable's purpose is to detect in-ground leaks of substances like gasoline. Products such as this, which are linked to the protection of the environment, will most likely become a future growing market for the company as environmental regulations increase and continually become an area of focus for the government and special interest groups.

Additionally, PTFE is continually being found to be superior to plastic due to its flexibility and ability to withstand extreme conditions. If W.L. Gore can continue to find innovative ways to use PTFE, they will have a huge and almost unlimited area of opportunity.

The substance PTFE is essentially Teflon, a product that...
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