Why Is Category Creation So Important?
Position yourself or be positioned.
Dear Friend & Subscriber,
Earlier today I was bouncing Tweets with a fellow Ship 30 for 30 member.
You can read our back-and-forth here:
The question I posed to my friend Jason here was, “See that thing in the middle? What are you going to call that?”
How most people think about their niche is in terms of BRAND.
Here are the qualities of my brand
Here’s what my brand looks like and sounds like
Here’s the emotion my brand communicates
And so on.
The problem is, people don’t buy brands.
People also don’t buy-into brands.
What people buy or buy-into is a category, first.
The example I always like using is when you go to a restaurant and the server asks you, “What would you like to drink,” you don’t start thinking about all the BRANDS you like, first. No, what comes before that is a category question: “Which TYPE of drink would I like?”
[Category] Alcoholic beverage?
[Category] Caffeinated beverage?
[Category] Hydration beverage?
And so on.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Then, once you’ve chosen an overarching category, you “niche down.” Within the category of, say, alcoholic beverage, which SUBCATEGORY are you most interested in exploring further?
And so on.
We’re not done.
THEN, once you’ve chosen which Category and Subcategory you are interested in, you most likely start to niche down even further. How do you want to sort your options? By price? By flavor profile? By social status and what the drink says about you? All of these are smaller, subcategories that ultimately dictate which sub-subcategory you decide you want to make your purchase within.
So, for example, let’s say within the subcategory of Tequila, you want to sort by price (sub-sub category). And you want THE MOST expensive tequila. You want luxury. So now, the sub-subcategory you are searching within is:
[Category] Alcoholic Beverage
[Sub-subcategory] Luxury Tequila
It’s not until you’ve gotten HERE that you FINALLY ask the question, “Alright, within this sub-subcategory, which BRAND should I buy? Which brand is the King of this category?”
That’s the golden question.
We as customers and consumers intuitively understand the only way to *know* which brand is “the best” is to understand the context through which we are assessing that brand. For example, if I said to you, “Clorox is amazing. Best brand out there.” Well, that statement doesn’t really mean anything to you if we’re talking about [Category] Alcoholic Beverages. It has no context. The statement, “Clorox is the best brand out there” only makes sense if we are having the conversation about who makes the best disinfectant wipes.
It’s a category conversation. Not a brand conversation.
When creators try to “find their niche,” many of them opt to ignore this important question.
They ignore it because it’s very difficult to answer.
They ignore it because they feel like it “boxes them in.”
And when questioned about it, they (almost always) point to celebrities, or people like Joe Rogan who name their podcast after themselves, and say, “That person didn’t define their category. So why should I?”
What they fail to realize is:
The person they are pointing to is an Outlier. They have achieved a level of fame and notoriety the average person cannot and will not (Joe Rogan was the face of the fastest-growing sport on television for years before launching his podcast).
And second, the people they are pointing to usually did create their own category. They might not have done it consciously, or Named It & Claimed It (as I so wholeheartedly advise you should do). But in the case of Joe Rogan, he created the category of 2-hour long, on-video, dialogue podcasts. Nobody was doing that. And anyone who tried doing it immediately got compared to Joe Rogan. Was it because of Joe Rogan’s BRAND? Well, yea sure. But listen to the words people use when they talk about something—it’s always in category terms. And the way people talked about Joe Rogan’s podcast was, “It’s really long interviews on video with prominent people in an unedited back and forth dialogue.”
That is a category.
Not a brand.
When you do not Name & Claim your category, you do not provide customers, consumers, and listeners with the language they need to talk about you to other people.
Say I started a podcast tomorrow titled, The Nicolas Cole Show.
And you go tell your friend, “Hey, you should totally check out The Nicolas Cole Show. He’s super cool.”
“Cool. What’s it about? What kind of podcast is it?” [Category question]
“Oh, well…” you pause. I haven’t Named It & Claimed It, I haven’t given you the language for how to talk about what it is that I do. And so, left to your own devices, you say, “…it’s just really fun and he’s got such a great personality and he has really cool guests and they talk about writing and stuff.”
Your friend *Shrugs* “Cool maybe I’ll check it out.”
And then they don’t. Because they don’t know what the category is. They don’t know how to think about whether or not they would enjoy that KIND of podcast/product.
Contrast that with a scenario where I started a podcast and I Named & Claimed my category. Instead of calling it, The Nicolas Cole Show, I want the name of the thing to be the category I am serving.
I call it, Rich Authors: How The World’s Most Successful Writers Make Their Money (And How Much They Make).
How much more specific is that?
And more importantly, how ABUNDANTLY CLEAR is it who this podcast is for and who this podcast is not for?
Are you looking for a podcast about [Category: Writing] [Subcategory: Money][Sub-Subcategory: How much the top 1% of authors make, and how]?
If no, this is not the right show for you.
If YES, this is WITHOUT QUESTION the best brand for that specific topic. Right? Because I’ve Named & Claimed the very thing you are interested in.
In addition, because I’ve given you the language for the category, you now have the script to introduce this show to other people.
“Hey, you should totally check out this podcast.”
“Cool, what’s it about? What kind of podcast is it?”
“It’s called Rich Authors and it’s all about how the world’s most successful writers make their money, and how much they make. It’s fascinating.”
“Wow! I was just looking for a podcast about [Category: Writing] [Subcategory: Money] [Sub-subcategory: How much the top 1% of authors make, and how]!”
This is how word of mouth marketing works.
And this is true for podcasts, it’s true for books, it’s true for digital content, it’s true for products and services.
It’s true for everything on planet earth.
Because the way we organize information is by CATEGORY FIRST, BRAND SECOND.
If you are interested in learning more about category creation & category design thinking, I highly recommend subscribing to my Wednesday newsletter, Category Pirates. I love this topic, and write about it often through the lens of how it can be applied to Creators here in my newsletter. But if you want the real deal, the in-depth data analysis, and the super advanced category design frameworks, Category Pirates is where you want to be.
All that make sense?
Now go create, design, Name & Claim your category!
(Otherwise, how am I supposed to know whether or not it’s for me?!)
Nicolas “Category Creator” Cole