Saturday, October 31, 2015

Creating "Category of One" Brands

To become a “category of one” brand is the holy grail of branding. What does it mean to become a “category of one” brand? It means that no other brand is even in the same category as your brand. Your brand has created a new category – one that matters to people.

What does it take to create a “category of one” brand? Intuition, insight, vision, risk-taking and an entrepreneurial spirit.

Here are some examples of “category of one” brands:

Central to creating a “category of one’ brand is envisioning and innovating the new category. This will certainly create buzz and a huge amount of free publicity. It will also create new demand. The people to whom it is targeted will want to try the new brand. And then they will want to spread the word about what they experienced. Word-of-mouth marketing is significant for “category of one” brands.

Creating a new category also creates a first mover advantage, and depending on how fast one can scale up, significant economies of scale and network effects. This creates tremendous financial advantages for the “category of one” brand and barriers to entry for me-too brands and other subsequent competitors.

Eventually, other brands will enter the category, especially if it is large, profitable and growing. However, if your brand is the one that created the category and it scaled up fast and took advantage of the category creation buzz, it should have financial advantages and mindshare advantages.

Are there currently or will there soon be competitors to each of the above listed brands? Sure, but there will likely never be another Cirque de Soleil.

Being a “category of one” implies a fair amount of innovative thinking, product innovation, often system innovation and usually business model innovation. So “category of one” brands can even be quite disruptive. Consider when it was first introduced or eBay when it was first introduced or Uber today.

Brands that innovated new categories must take charge of and credit for those new categories and they must grow them quickly or they might lose their advantage. Kodak created digital photography but consider its position in that market today. Who created the smartphone category? Who owns it today? Who created the MP3 player category? Who owns it today? Is it even relevant anymore with the emergence of the smartphone category? Which brand created airport rental beds? Is that brand still dominant in the category?

Instead of trying to differentiate your brand within an already crowded product or service category, consider creating a “category of one” instead. It is more fun. It will create more buzz. You will get a lot more free publicity. And, if you do it right, your brand will grow at an amazing rate. To read my post on seven strategies to  create new business categories, click here.

We offer a full day workshop in which clients explore alternative category definitions, competitive frames of reference and preemptive brand positions to discover a potential “category of one” brand position. This highly facilitated workshop is preceded by stakeholder research. Its output is a recommended “category of one” brand position, which can be translated into a tagline, a marketing campaign and inform strategic business decisions.

Please email us about how this workshop can benefit your brand.

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