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A groundbreaking discipline called Category Design is revealed in the book Play Bigger—How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets, Co-Authored by CDA partner, Kevin Maney.
Kevin Maney is a bestselling author and award-winning columnist. He has been writing about technology for his whole career, has interviewed most of the tech pioneers you can name, and brings broad and deep context to Category Design conversations. He is co-author of the book “Play Bigger,” and has been an A-list writer and thinker about technology for 30 years.
Winning today isn’t about beating the competition at the old game. It’s about inventing a whole new game—defining a new market category, developing it, and dominating it over time. You can’t build a legendary company without building a legendary category. If you think that having the best product is all it takes to win, you’re going to lose.
In this farsighted, pioneering guide, authors Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead, and Kevin Maney rely on data analysis and interviews to understand the inner workings of “category leaders”—companies such as Amazon, Salesforce, Uber, and IKEA—that give us new ways of living, thinking or doing business, often solving problems we didn’t know we had.
Every entrepreneur and investor should read this often-overlooked book by the late economist Paul Geroski. He studied how new categories evolved, then created an elegant theory about the patterns that get repeated time and again. For category designers, the idea is to become what Geroski calls the “dominant design” at the right moment in a category’s lifecycle.
“If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in.” Ries and Trout’s book is a classic in marketing circles, and their thinking inspired some of the thinking about category design in Play Bigger. If you want to go back to the source, pick up this and see how positioning and messaging looked in the 1970s.
A wonderful study of how and why world-changing innovation happens. For category designers, a key concept is the “adjacent possible.” Johnson shows how the big ideas catch on when they hit a magical space between what already exists and stuff that still seems sci-fi.
Journalist Brad Stone lays out the history of how Jeff Bezos built and developed Amazon’s “online bookstore” category, and then expanded it into...almost everything. Interesting to see how the momentum from a niche category can create the flywheel effect and continuously expand – becoming broad and enormous over time.
Anthony Kennada, a self made category designer, was Chief Marketing Officer at Gainsight when he applied category design principles to create Gainsight’s “customer success” category. So he looks at category design from the perspective of someone who’s executed on it.
Kevin Maney and Vivek Ranadive (then CEO of Tibco, now owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings) explore the intersection of neuroscience and computer science. Published three years before starting work on Play Bigger, and the concepts from the brain science community informed the thinking about why category design works.
Something of a predecessor to the book Play Bigger, Kevin Maney explores a theory of how the tension between quality and convenience can inform how to position a product or service so it has a clear place in consumers’ minds. For reasons still mysterious to the author, this book was huge in Japan.
In this biography, author Kevin Maney shows in detail how Thomas Watson Sr. built IBM by identifying, creating and then utterly dominating the then-new category of “data processing.” While IBM’s reputation has waned, don’t forget that it remains the most enduring success in technology history, and it crushed all challengers in its category for nearly 50 years before faltering.
Kevin Maney and Hemant Taneja, managing director of VC firm General Catalyst, lay out how a convergence of new super-technologies – including cloud, mobile, AI, blockchain and genomics – are taking apart twentieth-century scaled-up mass-market industries and reinventing them in ways that are more focused and personal. When searching for a category to create, this book shows how the landscape is changing and opening new opportunities.
Geoffrey Moore’s hugely influential first book came out 25 years before Play Bigger. While working on Play Bigger, the authors often felt (or hoped!) they were writing the Chasm book for a new era. For product marketers, Moore’s thinking still applies.
Effective category design creates passion, and passion creates superconsumers, and superconsumers can have an outsized impact on a company’s bottom line. Representing 10% of total consumers, they can drive between 30% to 70% of sales, and they’re usually willing to spend considerably more than the average consumer. Eddie Yoon is a veteran category consultant for consumer goods.