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December 2, 2021
Category design is a way of defining the category of business you're in, around your unique differentiation... so that your company becomes the obvious leader in your space.

You know what log splitting makes me think about?

Marketing and differentiation, of course. And that's because I've been doing a lot consulting in category design, even before there was a name for it.

So what's category design?

Category design is a way of defining the category of business you're in, around your unique differentiation... so that your company becomes the obvious leader in your space.

Category design was more or less invented by 3 very sharp thinkers who wrote a book called, 'Play Bigger.'

Worth reading.

They give example after example of companies that created their own category... from frozen foods to computer tablets to minivans … and even after 50 years the company that created the new category is still the market leader.

So back to wood splitting. The wedge on the axe I'm using is a specially designed to split along the grain of the wood to break the fibres apart, not cut them.

Bronze Yue Axes, Late Shang-Early Western Zhou, 11th-10th C. BC

Bronze axes from the Zhou dynasty

I'm sure in the beginning of time, there was just one category of axe -- it was called the 'axe'. And then some clever people figured out that if you design it one way it works better for felling trees. If you design it another way, it's good for splitting logs. Yet another way, it's good for small jobs. And still another way, it's good for taking into battle. That would be the category of the 'battle axe'.

Just like with shoes. In the beginning there was, well, the shoe. Today we have running shoes, dress shoes, hiking shoes, steel toed shoes, high heels, gardening clogs, galoshes, and well, you get the idea.

Chalcolithic leather shoe from Areni-1 cave

The oldest known leather shoe, about 5500 years old, found in Armenia

Each innovation has the potential for splitting off a new category.

In Roman times, there was just one kind of lawyer -- someone skilled in the art of pleading the case of another. Today, there are real estate lawyers, commercial lawyers, family lawyers, tax lawyers, and well, again, you get the idea.

Same with consultant categories, and car categories and fishing tackle categories, and cybersecurity categories, and fintech categories and... same with your industry.

It's the natural evolution of new categories through differentiation.

You can either lead that evolution or you can follow behind one of your competitors that leads it for you.

So the question I have for you today is this...

Is there a unique difference in your product or service that allows you to define a new category?

If you're like most of my clients, you'd probably say 'no'. You see, defining a new category is not easy or obvious. It usually takes an outside person to see the subtle difference that can become the framework for a new category, and then name it.

But if you do it right, the payoff is huge...

That's how I've helped my corporate clients get sales increases of up to 60%, get acquired, get funded, and well, become market leaders in their category.

Think about that. And while you do... I'll get back to log splitting.  And if you'd like to take a swing at category design, or get a handle on your differentiation, well, you know where to find me!

Differentiation Testimonial

Omer Schneider

Co-founder and CEO, CyberX (acquired by MSFT)

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About the Author Michel Neray

My work in Category Design and Differentiation for over 30 years has taught me that at the bottom of every meaningful value proposition is a story. As the founder of momondays, I have listened to and watched countless stories being performed -- it has given me a fundamental grasp of what works, and what doesn’t. As a professional speaker, trainer and consultant, I've worked with thousands of leaders and sales teams in more than eight countries around the world, from Montreal to Moscow. My passion is helping people and organizations lead better, sell more, and change the world through Category Design and Storytelling.

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