As Category Design Advisors enters its seventh year, we’ve launched a new website and organized a Resources page that makes it easier to find category-creation stories and new thinking that we’ve developed since our founding and the publishing of the book our partner Kevin Maney co-authored, Play Bigger.
Some of the new thinking has turned into incredibly useful tools when working with clients to identify, define and set the rules for a new market category. These are other lenses for understanding how and when categories emerge and develop over time. That includes the concept of the adjacent possible, first proposed by author Stephen Johnson in his book Where Good Ideas Come From, and a deeper dive into economist Paul Geroski’s work on how categories behave and how the dominant category design gets chosen. We also wrote about a category discovery tool that we developed at CDA, which we call the category formula. You can read about how IKEA’s story illustrates this concept.
The Resources page is also filled with videos about category design, and links to podcast appearances by CDA partners. You’ll find a Books page with links to books written by Kevin plus other books we recommend for category designers.
Over the previous six years, CDA has had the pleasure of working with dozens and dozens of startups, established companies, incubators and VC firms on category design. We helped Sprinklr establish its category in its run-up to an IPO, helped Traveler’s Haven tell a category story that led to its acquisition, and helped LinkedIn Sales Solutions – a billion-dollar business inside of LinkedIn – develop a category called deep sales that has given that team renewed energy and sense of purpose.
We’ve advised companies just getting started and a 60-year-old company, The Predictive Index, that was reinventing itself. Our clients have been in sectors ranging from deep data center technology to health tech to security to crypto. One of our clients, Nightfood, makes ice cream. (Yes, a new category of ice cream.)
About a year ago, we also brought in a new partner, Dan Honeywell, based in London. Dan had been CEO of a client, Zedsen, and believed so much in category design that he joined us after exiting the company. Dan’s focus is on category design in the UK and the rest of Europe.
As we go into 2023, CDA is offering two new versions of category design. Until now, we’ve been focused on our main offering: our full-scale category design project. Such projects take about a month and are very intensive for us and the leadership team of the client company. It typically makes sense for a startup that has funding and some traction or for a larger established company. Starting this year, we’re also offering a lighter-weight version of category design that can help very early-stage companies get on the right track, and a half-day live workshop for a group of portfolio companies that a venture capital firm or other investing firm can organize.
While 2022 was a challenging year for a lot of companies in tech and many other sectors, we’re feeling positive about 2023, and know there are many opportunities out there for category creation. Big changes in context – in technology being invented, economic shifts, societal changes and so on – open up important new category possibilities. We’re looking forward to helping our clients see and seize those opportunities.
Happy New Year,
Kevin, Mike and Dan