Category Design — A Newcomer’s Guide

Written by Paul Maher

September 2021

You have all heard of Category Kings like Uber, McDonalds, Starbucks, Ikea but you did not know the process to become one until now…

If you are a CEO or a marketing manager of a tech company in a fast-moving segment looking to “play differently” in a world dominated by B2B, B2C and D2C touchpoints and customer journeys, then learning about Category Design can help your brand grow sales, build barriers against competition, and extract maximum economic value. It is based fundamentally on differentiation.

Becoming a ‘Category King’ means you get to build long-term value, influence the thinking and buying habits of customers, and create a brand-new market for your product or service. Think about firms such as Apptio, Qualtrics (previously acquired by SAP), Sensity (bought by Verizon), Celonis who have all used Design to boost their market, brand awareness and commercial valuations.

But there is no space for a second leader, leave alone a third, within each category so you need to act fast. Follow these 5 easy steps to Category Design below:

  1. Defining your category problem
    Begin by focusing on the problem you are solving for your customers. This is one of the defining characteristics of Category Kings — they spend more time educating about the problem than talking about their solution, so come up with an answer to start the process.
  2. Creating a clear point-of-view
    Create a document that will explain and sell the category idea to your stakeholders. It will act as the defining document for every aspect of the creation process right through to Strike and beyond.
  3. Defining a category blueprint
    This will act as the master plan to overhaul all branding, marketing including PR, AR and IR, website design, case studies, internal communications etc. in line with new categories.
  4. Communicating the strategy across company stakeholders
    No Category is truly created by accident, it requires plenty of intent, thought, energy, persistence, and leadership by an executive team. Scenario planning and  communication is the key to achieving this.
  5. Category reveal (lightning strikes)
    Every Strike– creating the moments when categoris or its elements are revealed to the world – demands goals, objectives, check-ins, and measurement. It is designed to catch previous competitors unawares and be endorsed and supported by key customers and influencers prior to the Strike and publicly at the point of Strike.

If global domination is still on your mind and you now need an expert to take you through the journey of Category Creation at lightning pace, then contact us today. In the meantime, we recommend reading ‘Play Bigger’, the seminal book on the topic.

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