How To Create A Product Category (And Why Would You Anyway?)

In my last article, I talked about the overwhelming saturation of products in the marketplace and the complacency of the consumer to listen to (yet another) advertising message. I said that if you wanted to be successful with a new product, you should seek to establish a new product category.

In this article, I am going to explain what this means.

A product category can be defined as a group of products that are closely related because they are intended for the same use, are sold to the same customers, or fall within the same budget. justmyfitness Examples of product categories might include television sets, pizzas, shampoos and so on.

Creating a new product category typically means creating a variation of an existing product to create a new market for it. And being the creator of a new category offers you immense opportunity to claim the ultimate leadership position. After all, you were there first. (Think Coca Cola “The Real Thing”.)

Let’s look at some examples of creating new product categories.

Domino’s Pizza was not the first chain restaurant to make pizzas. But it created a new category (home delivered pizza) when it created the first US home delivery service for pizzas.

Apple’s i-Pod was not the first portable music player (in fact, it wasn’t the first MP3 player either). But it was the first sexy MP3 player that used a USB port and firewire to transfer music files and came complete with fully-integrated proprietary software to make it easy for users.

Fedex was not the first courier service, but it was the first to guarantee overnight delivery (Who can forget, when it absolutely has to be there…)

If you’re the proprietor of a smaller business, and you want have aspirations to build yourself into a big brand, look at what the big brands do.

The successful ones are carving out new product categories, getting media coverage because what they are doing is new and different, and claiming brand leadership.

Anyone who follows them is a me-too product.

Here are the strategic rules that apply to setting up a new product category:

To be successful, product categories need to be very narrow – so avoid chasing big generic terms. By this I mean instead of “shampoo” target “dog shampoo” or even “tangle free dog shampoo” as the definition for the category.

Your product category has to be perceivably different (or new) from anything else in the marketplace. This means you need to choose a product category where there is no-one else (or if there are other players (such as in Apple’s MP3 player market), they are unknown).

You need to launch the product category through the use of publicity or public relations – not advertising. (Advertising is used to maintain an existing brand not to launch a new one.)

Your messages to the marketplace need to focus on the benefits attributed to the product category you have established, not your brand.

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