The decision to join an existing category, or to launch a new brand category is not an easy decision. Evaluating your product maturity, the product roadmap, and overall market maturity is critical. Once the decision is made, the strategy shifts to creating the right budget and plan to launch the new brand category. Building momentum is paramount to both the category’s success, and by proxy, your own brand’s position as the category leader.
As we’ve previously discussed, timing is critical for launch. You need to consider factors of competition, messaging, production and market forces. And when the light is green, launching a new brand category with your brand as the de facto leader means getting buy-in, quickly. Building momentum for your new category, attracting important users and creating buzz necessitates its own strategy, one that has to be developed concurrently with defining and naming the new category.
Why New Brand Category Launches Fail
Just because you have a brilliant name doesn’t mean your category will be adopted. In fact, most fail. Lack of preparation, especially when it comes to budgeting, often results in categories that fizzle out. Businesses are often so focused on designing, manufacturing, and promoting their own product that they postpone the effort needed to market a newly developed category. And before they know it, it’s too late. The new category launch needs to lead your brand into the arena, not the other way around.
Common mistakes for launch include not creating enough context for the category, making claims about the category that fall short, failing to create enough distinction from competitive categories, missing the mark on customer education (people just don’t get it), or jumping the gun on timing. Creating a new brand category requires the same rigor as launching a new brand or new product.
When developing your strategy for launching a new category, these five tactics are key.
1. Be Consistent with Messaging
Just as you’ve developed and tested messaging around your brand, developing the messaging around your new brand category is equally important. Consistency is everything. In order to build traction, you’ll need competition, influencers, and customers to grab onto a clear and concise message. Everyone needs to be on the same page about what the category is, why it’s better than the alternative, and why it matters. It may be tempting to embellish the messaging with claims that make it sounds remarkable, but don’t. You’ll need messaging that is repeatable, authentic, and true to your brand in order to be picked up by your audience. Test the category messaging, and assuming it’s working, stick to it.
2. Generate Competition
It may sound counterintuitive, but when you are creating a category, competition helps legitimize a market and increases the size of the pie. Your brand will actually benefit if others are spending their marketing dollars to help popularize the value of what you are doing. The key, however, is to be first to market (see #1: owning the messaging around the category) – and continue to find ways to elevate yourself above the crowd, while maintaining both a product and thought leadership position.
3. Tap Into Influential Early Adopters
The snowboard surpassed the snurfer as a category when Burton came onto the scene with a posse of well-known surfers and skaters who were early adaptors of the new sport. They were not only the target audience for snowboarding. They had enough cultural clout to make snowboarding popular. When launching a new category, finding ambassadors with strong reputations will help raise awareness for and substantiate your category.
Otherwise known as PR. Keep in mind that the category is the focus of the PR efforts, not your brand. Focus on cultivating buzz around the category in an authentic way. This requires some restraint on behalf of your brand. Drawing too much attention to your brand right out of the gate is a misstep. This is because people won’t yet have a way of talking about it. So create context first. Then, generate conversations around the category with a strong media presence (industry influencers, bloggers, press, and social media should all be activated). The buzz around your brand will follow.
5. Educate Customers
Host conferences and events – both in person and online – that use the category name. Educating customers about the category should be the central driver for marketing. Build your reputation without overselling yourself. Establishing industry user groups with digital meetups are powerful ways to spark conversations and create groundswell with a wide audience. With enough momentum, your brand’s leadership will be in position as a thought leader. And further embedding the category and subsequently your brand in customer’s minds.
The Rewards of a Strategic Category Launch
Identifying a new category and building it from scratch can serve as a powerful path to growth for your brand. And the effort involved pays off. Category creators experience fast growth and receive high valuations from investors. Creating a new category, your brand will be in a solid position to surpass the competition. Or break into a flooded market. On top of that, your brand will be positioned to own the category as the de facto leader. Category creation is nothing short of a game changer.