How to Design a New Category

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode, Olivia Hurley talks to Josh Lowman, Founder & Chief Creative Officer at Goldfront Agency.

...mhm Hi everyone welcome back to be to be growth. My name is Olivia Hurley and today I am joined by josh Lohman who is the founder and chief creative officer at Gold Front, josh, how are you doing today? I'm doing great. It's nice to be here. Good. I'm so glad. I'm really excited. We get to talk today. So you're the founder and chief creative officer at Gold Front, which is the world's first category design studio. That really begs the question, what is category design? Okay, well actually it begs the question, what is a category design studio? Your right, let's start, let's let's start there. What is a category design studio? Okay, so first of all, I'm here in san Francisco, this is where Gold Front is my company and we are a category design studio. And that means that we help startups create and own their own category. Um, we're a category design studio because we're the first creative company to combine category strategy with all the creative execution you need to do to launch that category in the world. Brand design website, design video, et cetera. And the what the importance of having a category design studio in the world is that our clients for the most part have been using a very old kind of strategy called Brain strategy. And it can't get them to where they really want to go because Brain strategy was invented to help people stand out in an existing category like cars or cigarettes or something like that. Category of strategy was invented to help companies create entirely new species of products, something entirely new. And it's designed around that there's a lot of overlap with brand strategy, but as long as you're putting your...

...communications and your ideas and your vision into the world, into the kind of language of brand strategy, it's going to limit what your company can be. And that's why we're a category design studio. Well, there you have it. So brand is becoming antiquated or is not right for startups, especially who are bringing something new into the world. So can you walk me through what category creation is in its essence could just ground us in a definition to start with. Sure, category design was first made popular in the book play bigger about five years ago. But the idea that People make buying decisions based on category 1st and foremost has been around for decades. And category of design is the intentional creation of new market categories so that you can own a much bigger kind of market then you otherwise would if you were in an existing category and the word design in there, I think suggests that it's something that you do thoughtfully, it's something that you do with a lot of rigor and it's something that you do, bringing together a number of different elements, all working in concert to get you to your goal. So who might the people or companies be who need to be thinking about category design is it for everyone are there? People who would you don't need it? Yeah. Yeah. So category creation in and of itself has been around forever, you know, as long as there have been products, but category design has really taken off in...

...these last 5 to 10 years because we're in this time where there's all these companies who are innovating people are creating totally new kinds of products at a much higher rate than they used to. And so category design has been picked up as this kind of very relevant thing for startups to do and especially for startups that are, are funded, people are investing a lot of money in those startups. And so they're shooting for a big acquisition or some some kind of event liquidity event at the end where they're valued very highly. And the way to do that is not through competing in an existing category, but it's to create a category of your own. Okay, so we know why we're doing it, we know who's doing it. Let's talk about the how, so you bring companies in and take full assessment and walk with them from start to finish, of course, in this category design process. But would you mind just kind of sharing the high level process if somebody wanted to maybe take stock of what that would look like starting by themselves? Yeah, I'd be happy to. You don't need us, you can do it yourself and if you were going to do it yourself, here's how I would do it. First of all, you have to carve out the time in your schedule. One of the reasons why we are so effective for our clients is because our clients are busy constantly all day putting out fires, answering emails, taking care of their to do list. And we carve out time to really think deeply about category. But you can do the same thing. You have to go to your boss, you have to say, look, I need at least an hour every morning where I don't have...

...to do any email, I'm not going to be on slack, I won't be in any meetings. Okay. Because you're gonna need that time to write and really think so once you've got the time scheduled, the next thing you're gonna need to think about our kind of three big buckets or things that we need to define for as category designers. The first is the gap. What is the gap that you are trying to close or solve for your customers? Second is what is your vision for the future, five years down the road, What does the world look like for your customers and even for the world if you are ultimately successful with what you're doing. And the third is what's your category idea and the category idea is best expressed as the name of a category and maybe a single sentence describing what that what that means. And so once we, so you start with those three ideas and then I want to talk a little bit about how you're really actually going to do this. So you get into your writing time, no one's going to bother, you don't check anything of all your notifications. And then you're gonna write down, you just start with the gap and the way that you get to the gap because you're going to start writing down problems that you uniquely solve for your customer. So you know, this is all assuming you already have a company and a product and maybe you're an existing category but you want to be a category creator, right? So you take that product that you have and you think like what problems do we solve for customers especially what are we uniquely solve for customers. And the first thing people will do will be to try to write this in terms of the features and benefits of their product, but don't do that. You want the reverse, you want to write it down as problems that your customers have And just write...

...down a ton of stuff. Uh this is too expensive. It's too hard to do. X. um just keep writing stuff down. You should get a list of 20 things and you're gonna look at that list and think about what are the things that are most valuable that we solve and one of the things that are most unique most unlike anything else and you're going to start to think about like, okay, how could I get wrap all this up into one concept and that one concept is something that we call the gap. You're going to try to name the gap, We're going to try to name this one concept that is all of the problems that you uniquely solved. So for example, we just launched a category for our client visible busy bo was an event management software platform. They just came out as an event experience. Os and that's very different than just event management software and for them, the gap that we helped them land on is the event impact gap. So that's the impact that people who are putting on events are unable to make for their business and for the event goers with existing event management software. So that was, that's an example of one gap, but you're gonna have to name your own gap and so that's that's the gap part. So I'm curious about the, about the problems parts. So a couple of important assumptions that need to be made one, you know, your customer base really, really well, you know what they're dealing with in their day to day, that's going to help you when you really think through the getting to an accurate gap, I would assume right and the second one would be knowing what your competitors are doing, knowing that your space really well because that's how you're going to be able to determine, we do this either uniquely or we do it the best. And here's why in...

...order to tightly determined at the end of that exercise, what is the gap and even how do I begin to put language around it? Absolutely. When you say those are true, Absolutely. That second thing you said, it's that's so spot on Olivia, you have to have a good, once you come up with all the things that you, the problems that you solve, you have to have come up with a really good list of what? Okay, well, which of those things are unique and better than who we perceive as our competitors are doing this is why you need the notifications off in a couple more, a couple hours in the per week to really be left alone to figure it out. Probably some research involved. This, it sounds like creating this list is the foundation of everything to come. That's right. That's right. Ok. Okay. So we're putting a lot of thought into this and a lot of that's right. That's right. And in fact, if you really solve that gap the right way, if you can really name it, Probably 70% of the way there. If you really nail that, you can probably get to the rest of it. But we're not going to do that. We're not going to jump the line. We're going to go to the next thing, which is now, you're going to write down your vision for the future and when we ask our clients to talk about their vision for the future a lot of times they'll be like, well we're super successful and we're making a lot of money and people love us, you know, and which of course that's sure who wouldn't want that, but the vision that we're talking about is what specifically does it look like for your customers if you guys are really successful and the key is that you're being really specific and you're using your imagination to really imagine what it might be like five years from now. So for example, Uber is a client of...

...ours and they have the idea that if we keep going like this in the future we can take more cars off the road. And so part of their vision is cities may actually have more space for pedestrians and bicycles and things like that. That's a really great specific way to talk about their vision for the future. And so you kind of want to think creatively about that and really kind of get into the details of like what does that world look like for your customer? Hey everybody Logan was sweet fish here. If you're a regular listener of GDP Growth, you know that I'm one of the co hosts of the show, but you may not know that I also head up the sales team here at sweet fish. So for those of you in sales or sales ops, I wanted to take a second to share something that's made us insanely more efficient lately, our team has been using lead I. Q. For the past few months. And what used to take us four hours gathering contact data now takes us only One where 75% more efficient. We're able to move faster with outbound prospecting and organizing our campaigns is so much easier than before. I'd highly suggest you guys check out lead I. Q. As well. You can check them out at least I Q dot com. That's L E A D I Q dot com. Alright, let's get back to the show. I love that. This is a big goal in the world of like investing. I don't know why that comes to mind right now, but they call it like the big audacious goal. And I think this is I love actually when we were talking before we were on this call you had mentioned companies are interested in doing well. So revenue success very measured but doing good as well. And I think this is where you get to get...

...creative. But you also the it sounds like this vision is very large, it's not unrealistic. It's very connected to the business, it's very connected to the impact that your product can make or your service can make. How detailed do you get with this vision any of these for both the problem and vision. It's really just a series of simple statements. So for vision, you know, just write down a sentence that says, what does the world look like in five years and then you don't have to write paragraphs or it's just a list of ideas And you know, you probably want 10-20 of those. Yeah, okay, 10-20 vision statements. I'm curious about one thing actually, if we can hop back up to determining the gap, is there a way that you recommend people test that, that what they've come up with is accurate? Yeah, best way to test is the way Quentin Tarantino does. So he writes his scripts and he's obviously one of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood and he works really hard on his scripts and then he invites a person over and he reads them every part of the script while they stand there or sit there or whatever and if they go, wow, that's amazing, I love it. Then he knows that it's ready and I'm sure he does that to more than one person, but that's the best research you can do is you take your ideas, you pitch them to people and you wait until you get you start getting reactions where people are like, wow, you really got something mm Okay, good way to, good way to test. So then we've written down the problem, we've established the gap, we know what our vision is, we know our direction and where we're heading, we know that we're going to be thinking more than just everyone in the company is driving Lamborghinis and we're just rolling in...

...it. I don't care about cars at all, but that's, that's expensive and it's far, it's far more about how are our customers lives being changed or impacted. So what's next? What comes next? Okay, so then when we get to the final part, which is your category idea and most, most of the time category ideas are going to come out as category names and just come up with as many as you can. Don't worry if they're good, just write stuff down, write whatever comes to mind. Once you've written down say 50-100, you could go back and you could bold the ones that you think are most interesting. You want to think about, You kind of need to think about two things during this stage. You need to think about what is the idea, like what is the actual concept of this thing? But then you also need to think about what does the actual name sound like. And there's a few things about names that are kind of important about category names. One is that they should be fairly rational. So something like Nike, just do it, just do it that doesn't work as a category name. Um, it's a great tagline of course, but it's just not telling you enough about what the thing is. So a category name should tell you what is it. The other thing that I would think about is you also want it to be a little bit emotional or have a little bit of tension, something interesting about it. So we just named the event experience os for obisbo, that word experience is more emotional than a word like management. And then also when you say that it's an os you're really saying like, hey, this is something big, this is a much bigger play than just a tool or piece of software and so things like...

...that, give it a little bit of excitement and you know what it is, That's right, there's obviously intrigue and a hook and you want to learn more, but you can probably surmise accurately what it is. Other examples of categories, account based marketing, account based marketing is the famous category. Yes. What might be a few others? Well, we we created a category for our clients all day kitchens and all day kitchens came out as an alternative to ghost kitchens last year. Ghost kitchens were pretty big. There were this idea that there was this idea that kitchens without, that weren't restaurants could be rented by restaurants and it would allow them to increase their delivery footprint. Right? And all day our clients that all day kitchens came out with some with a kind of different way of doing this whole thing, trying to get a similar result, but a different way of doing it, which is to actually run the kitchen's themselves and let the restaurant make the food at their restaurant and then from there all day kitchens picks up the food and then makes it at all these satellite kitchens and there they have expert chefs at the center of their business, so they know how to take, You know, the amazing food of a great local restaurant, and then they learn how to make it exactly like that in their kitchen, and they can take the footprint of the delivery footprint of a local restaurant and expand it from, you know, maybe two miles to 50 miles. And so they really wanted to let the world know that they were different than a ghost kitchen. So we came up with this, this name of a distributed...

...restaurant platform and we really liked this idea of naming it around the kind of restaurant because really they're all about championing restaurants, They saw this moment that restaurants, local restaurants were gonna get steamrolled by, you know, our delivery future and so they wanted to give restaurants a chance to transform into something that could win in that future. And the transformation that they're, they're saying restaurants can make is to become a distributed restaurant. So that's a great local restaurant that has the capacity that all day kitchens offers them. Oh my gosh, I think that's awesome as somebody who loves restaurants and loves probably eating. I think that is brilliant. So remind me of the category, name, distributed restaurant platform. And then there's another category name in there, which is a distributed restaurant. So you've created to it's two categories, right? Oh my gosh, which is just absolutely wonderful and brilliant tactics. So then does that allow for other in this kind of thought experiment for a second? Would that potentially allow for other people, other companies to then move into that category? That's already been established for them? Yes, that's the idea is that other companies could move into that category as well and they will at some point if it's successful. Right? So there's an idea that the category is a almost like a gift that you give to the world who knew that this was so benevolent. I mean, that in the truest way, I think that's that's awesome. So curious about you just mentioned if it's successful, I'm curious about some of the results that category creation has, has driven that you've seen personally with your companies and that you've worked with around, you know, okay, they create the category, they have this vision for the...

...future, then what? How are they really assessing? Yeah. So the results that we see our clients getting are kind of amazing. I mean, first of all, almost all of our clients go on to raise another much bigger round after they do category creation and that's the number one way that they're going to measure this? Is, did this raise awareness for their company? Their product, their category. Did it make people start to convert to become customers did increase revenue, things like that. And if they can do that then they're going to be able to get another, you know, additional round of funding that's even much, much bigger than the previous one. And so that that happens almost like clockwork for most of our clients. But also there's I mean there's just like huge potential in this. We worked with another agency played bigger to write the category P. O. V. For Qualtrics and Qualtrics at the time was a survey company. They were being lumped in with Medallion and Surveymonkey and the evaluation was a little bit under a billion dollars. Which was they were doing great but cool tricks had a vision that was much bigger than surveys. And so we helped them land on this new category, P. O. V. And then when they brought that out to the world, their valuation just shot up because people perceive them as no longer in an existing category. But a really exciting new category that they were the leader of. And valuations go up when you're perceived as the leader of an exciting new category. And so today that was five years ago that we did this work and Now the evaluation is that I think it's around 24 billion. They're a public company and they still use um so in their S1 when they filed to go public, they still use all the...

...same ideas to express their value in the world from five years ago. That's incredible. One billion. Which is I like you said, sitting pretty up to, did you say 24 billion? I think that's what it is. Yeah. Yeah. So what was their new category? Experienced management, experienced management? They're gap is the experience gap. And so the experience gap is the difference between the experience that your customers are having and the experience that your executives think that they're having. And if those two things are way out of whack and you know, different, then you've got a really big problem in Qualtrics is the first experience management platform that closes that gap. This is so interesting to me because I'm sure that that's a prevalent problem for many companies is the experience you're exactly think your customers are having versus the experience that your customers are having. And people can use Qualtrics is a great example of of, you know, that category has already been created and we could either join in with Qualtrics if that makes sense, or we can use that as a stepping stone and think, I think it provides even more guardrails for addressing their own categories. That's a great example. I love that one. If you were to give a few red flags or warning signs. As people who take this. Maybe internal assessment or the D. I. Y route of creating or thinking through a new category for their company, what would be some of the wrong turns that people might take? Okay? The biggest thing is people thinking too small, just got to think like how big could...

...this thing be and can't be too attached to what you have right now. Category design is not just like a marketing thing, you're not looking at. What what product do we have now, How do we paint it and how do we show it in its best light? Category design is a little bit of that but it's also invention. And so I think what I see is people may be thinking a little too small or thinking more about what do we need to do in the next couple months as opposed to where do we need to get to in, you know, four or five years. How do you help people kind of break out of that, that small mind sound. Yeah, it's interesting because there's a few ways that I think things that we do that part of our process that is helpful. 11 thing is that we only work with the Ceo, I mean we work with the CEO and other executives but if the Ceo is not involved then we won't do category strategy with them. And so that's that's one big thing right there and then we're not cheap as a company. And so our clients put down real money to do this thing and I think just the act of doing that makes it so that they're going to give it more attention and really give it their focus. Another thing is we do workshops that are 2.5 or three hours and usually there's four or five of them. So that's a big investment of time. So when you get the ceo investing money time, getting all the executives together, then it takes on a different, you know, way that people are thinking about it compared to some of the other initiatives that they have going on. And I think that's really important in order to kind of...

...think big enough about what you're doing, there's some major skin in the game there, and they want to get the most juice good news as we say. Yeah. Oh my gosh, that's phenomenal. And then, you know, and then also on our side it's incumbent upon us to think big to and to be kind of as dramatic as we can. And I think one thing that's interesting about is when we're writing strategic narratives and helping our clients figure out the story of this new category. We're always using this idea that, like, okay, it's got to be as dramatic as possible, and then we're going back to like, well, what can we actually approve? Like, what do we actually have? So that this doesn't just come across as Bs, right? And we're always trying, kind of, going back and forth between those two things. Be as dramatic as possible. Make sure it's not Bs be as dramatic as possible. Make sure it's not Bs. And we're trying to find that connective tissue so that eventually we can get a story that really is dramatic but also resonates as true for the audience. Oh my goodness, you have put so much thought into this. Does this work just light you up? This sounds just my God, It's so fun. It's so fun. And it's meaningful to, because new technologies are going to decide our fate, it's going to decide the fate of our species. We may destroy ourselves, we may save ourselves. We don't know. But these new categories that are being created are going to be the thing that decides that. And so, you know, you better make them good. And also we have a particular interest in making sure that those new categories are purpose driven, humanist, good for the world. So it's very fulfilling work. That sounds awesome. I'm so glad you're doing that. I'm so glad so many people have been coming to you and creating these new categories.

You are wicked Good at what you do. Just even from these stories, I'm so lucky that we've gotten to chat today. If there was one big takeaway you wanted listeners to come away from this episode. Just one nugget. What would it be? Believe in yourself if you feel that you've got a better way that your company could be doing things and people are saying, nah, nah, forget about it. Just, let's do it the old way. Just believe in yourself. You got to figure out a way to break out of that and listen to yourself and try to, you know, do something big for your company. I love it and do the legwork, you know, do that list, writing of the problems and figuring out the gap like you said, I, I think that's phenomenal advice. Well thank you so much for joining me on GDP growth Olivia. I really enjoyed this. It was great talking with you. Oh awesome, thank you. Are you on linkedin? That's a stupid question. Of course you're on linkedin here, Sweet fish. We've gone all in on the platform. Multiple people from our team are creating content there. Sometimes it's a funny gift for me, other times it's a micro video or a slide deck and sometimes it's just a regular old status update that shares their unique point of view on B two B marketing leadership or their job function. We're posting this content through their personal profile, not our company page and it would warm my heart and soul if you connected with each of our evangelists, we'll be adding more down the road, but for now you should connect with Bill reed, R. C 00 Kelsey Montgomery, our Creative director dan Sanchez our Director of audience growth Logan Lyles, our director of partnerships and me, James Carberry. We're having a whole lot of fun on linked in pretty much every single day and we'd love for you to be a part of it.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (1708)